Bigelow built a 20-point lead by halftime Friday and held on to beat Quitman, 48-34, in the 2-5A Conference opener. The game became an afterthought when senior Bulldog linebacker Hadley Martin absorbed a hard collision and never got up.
A Life Flight Helicopter landed on the field at Bulldog Stadium to transport Martin to Children's Hospital in Little Rock, where he was examined thoroughly over two nights and diagnosed to have a severe concussion.
Both teams, joined by parents, met in the middle of the field for prayer before resuming play 45 minutes after the game was stopped.
“It was a hard fought game back and forth,” said Quitman Coach Fritz Heidenreich. “The difference was three key turnovers that we had. Hadley was making a tackle and he and a Bigelow player hit helmets. He went down and laid on the field motionless. Emergency responders got him to respond to them and he was air lifted to Children's Hospital in Little Rock. He was released Sunday with a severe concussion and bruised bones in his neck. He is done for the season,” added Heidenreich.
Bigelow (1-3, 1-0) found success on the ground. The Panthers ran for 310 yards, while Quitman, trailing the entire game, took to the air and racked up 393 yards passing behind junior quarterback Walker Johnson, who finished 18 of 30 with three touchdowns.
Down 14-0 early, Quitman battled back when sophomore running back Chris Milam broke tackles up the middle en route to a 28-yard touchdown run.
Bigelow answered with a 48-yard touchdown run by Eduardo Alvarado, but the Bulldogs refused to go down quietly, marching 61 yards in four plays, starting when senior receiver Michael McRae hauled in a reception for 17 yards into Panther territory.
Following a pass-interference penalty, senior running back Jacoby Brown scampered untouched up the middle from 15 yards out for a touchdown, leaving Bigelow with a 21-12 lead.
Bigelow would respond again, marching 59 yards in nine plays. Kelton Jones capped the Panthers' drive with a 4-yard scoring run, boosting Bigelow's lead to 27-12 with 10:23 remaining in the second quarter.
The Panthers added another score on their next offensive series when quarterback Nate Turner found Alex Williams for a 9-yard touchdown as Bigelow pushed its lead to 34-12 with 7:46 to play in the first half.
Quitman stayed within striking distance by driving 62 yards in four plays. Johnson dropped back and found sophomore receiver Treavor Williams streaking toward the end zone wide open for a 40-yard touchdown. Milam bulled into the end zone on the two-point conversion, trimming Bigelow's lead to 34-20 with 6:05 left until halftime.
After trading possessions, Bigelow cushioned its halftime lead behind sophomore running back Steven Moorehead, who spearheaded a scoring drive that ended in a 10-yard touchdown run by Javier Granillo.
Page 2 of 2 - Quitman's defense bowed up in the second half, limiting Bigelow to 42 rushing yards and 46 passing yards.
But, Alvarado returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown as Bigelow extended its lead to 48-20 early in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs continued to battle and chip away, scoring on fourth down when Johnson found Williams over the middle for a 42-yard touchdown. Johnson added the PAT, slicing the Panthers' lead to 48-27.
Sophomore cornerback Nathaniel Reynolds set up the Bulldogs with another touchdown by intercepting his second pass of the game.
After Reynolds returned the interception to the Bulldog 28, Quitman struck quickly on a double reverse flea-flicker as Johnson found McRae wide open for a 72-yard touchdown. Johnson booted the PAT, suddenly cutting Bigelow's lead to 48-34 with 11:48 remaining.
Near the midway point of the fourth quarter, Brent Southerland collided with Martin on a 15-yard run, which brought the shootout to a halt. Both teams traded possessions thereafter, physically exhausted and drained of all emotion.
Alvarado paced Bigelow with seven carries for 117 yards, while Moorehead ran 17 times for 113 yards. Turner completed 11 of 15 passes for 135 yards, while rushing for 89 more.
McRae had four receptions for 126 yards and one touchdown, while Williams made seven catches for 124 yards and two scores to pace Quitman. Milam added two grabs for 71 yards, while leading the Bulldogs' ground attack with nine carries for 69 yards and one touchdown. Reynolds contributed two receptions for 59 yards and Martin added a 12-yard catch. Brown ran four times for 17 yards and one score.
Milam led Quitman's defense with 14 tackles, Martin followed with 11, while Brown and defensive tackle Eugene Pegues each contributed nine.
Quitman travels to Cutter Morning Star (3-1, 1-0) on Friday. The Eagles defeated Mountain Pine 41-6 in their conference opener.
(Editor's note: Stats and information courtesy of Quitman Football Foundation's Dan Lichoff.)