Quitman jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead before Bigelow's Panthers clawed back into Friday's 5-2A conference opener, eventually tying the contest with a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
On fourth and goal in overtime, Bigelow quarterback Austin Turner scored from one yard out on a sneak play as the Panthers escaped with a 21-14 victory over the Bulldogs.
"I feel like the difference in the game was tradition," said Quitman Coach Fritz Heidenreich. "Bigelow has been in those situations. That was a big ball game for us. We had a chance to beat them but I think they just have a little more experience winning those type of games than we do."
In the second quarter, Quitman struck with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive ignited by bruising running back Allen Mannon, who picked up 13 yards over left tackle on second down.
Quarterback Hadley Martin added three consecutive carries for a total of 38 yards, including a 19-yard tackle-breaking run that set up a first down at the Panther 41.
Mannon took over from there, breaking loose for runs of eight and 11 yards before finding a gaping hole over left side for a 28-yard touchdown run. Walker Johnson kicked the PAT, pushing Quitman's lead to 7-0 with 9:31 left in the second quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff Quitman popped the ball high in the air, causing two Bigelow players to collide and fumble. Chase Stewart recovered the loose ball at the Panther 34, where the Bulldogs began a 6-play scoring drive.
Mannon pushed the Bulldogs inside the red zone with a nifty 17-yard run. On third and 5, Mannon broke free again, this time for 15 yards inside the Bigelow 1-yard line. On first and goal, Mannon barreled up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown with 7:31 remaining until halftime. Johnson added the PAT, extending Quitman's lead to 14-0.
Bigelow's final drive of the first half came to a sudden halt when cornerback Hunter Bridges pulled down an interception in the end zone.
Late in the third quarter with Quitman still holding a 14-0 lead, Bigelow struck with an 8-play, 65-yard scoring strike that took less than four minutes. The Bulldogs held tight on the two-point conversion, preserving a 14-6 lead.
The Bulldogs maintained an 8-point lead until Bigelow's final drive. After forcing a three and out midway through the fourth quarter, the Panthers covered 55 yards in six snaps for a critical touchdown. With 3:32 remaining in regulation, Bigelow passed for two more points on the conversion attempt, tying the score at 14-all.
Quitman moved into Bigelow territory on its final drive of regulation as Hadley Martin kept twice for a total of 42 yards, including a 37-yard run in which he broke free of several defenders.
Page 2 of 2 - But, two straight penalties pushed the Bulldogs back to midfield and they never bounced back as the two headed to overtime still tied at 14-14.
Starting at the Quitman 10, Bigelow used its ground attack to reach the goal-line, where
Turner scored on a fourth and goal quarterback sneak. The Panthers added the PAT for a 21-14 lead then held Quitman on its offensive series.
Facing fourth and goal from the Bigelow 10, Johnson passed to the end zone for Stewart, who appeared to draw contact with the ball still in the air. However, with the game on the line, the officials called it a clean play as the Panthers escaped with a 21-14 win.
"It looked like pass interference but it wasn't called and that is just part of the game," Heidenreich said.
Bigelow (3-0, 1-0) ran 69 plays, collected 21 first downs and 341 yards of total offense, including 283 on the ground. Quitman ran 58 plays, generating 12 first downs and 179 yards of total offense, including 145 rushing.
Mannon paced the Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1) with 16 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns, while Hadley Martin added 69 yards rushing on seven attempts. Defensively, linebacker Hadley Martin led the Bulldogswith 14 tackles, middle linebacker Derek Robinson added 13 stops, defensive end Justin Kent contributed 11 tackles, while Bridges and defensive end Sawyer Johnson each had 10 stops.
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs have shown steady improvement each week. "We are playing more physical as a team," said Heidenreich. "Bigelow is one of the most physical teams that we play each year and we actually played with them physically the whole night but just couldn't get it done in overtime."
Quitman(1-2, 0-1) hosts Cutter Morning Star (3-0, 1-0) for homecoming on Friday at 7 p.m.
(Editor's note: Stats courtesy of Quitman Football Foundation's Dan Lichoff)