The Quitman Bulldogs overcame a 17-7 first half deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but the Bigelow Panthers halted the comeback by scoring the contest’s final touchdown with a little over a minute remaining, sealing a 23-17 victory Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.
After receiving the ball to start the game, the Bulldogs suffered an early turnover on downs before sophomore safety Dylan Hensley came through with an interception to bring the offense back out, as a snapped ball would slip through the fingers of quarterback Donovan Foley into the end zone for a touchback and an early 2-0 Bigelow lead. Following back-to-back fumbles and turnovers from both teams to end the first twelve minutes of play, Foley would be tackled in the end zone again to extend the Panther lead to 4-0. Seven more points would come for Bigelow with seven minutes to go in the half as senior quarterback Brady Reed hooked up with senior receiver Ricky Dunlap for a 20-yard touchdown, pushing the lead to 11-0.
Quitman would get on the scoreboard with 1:54 after Foley laced a 75-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Isaac Clemmons, with the Panthers answering right back with a 34-yard pass into the end zone to take a 17-7 lead into the locker room. Foley ran 20 yards to the 41-yard line on a quarterback keep to open the second half, throwing an interception on a pass intended for Clemmons. Foley would redeem himself on the next drive, hitting senior Reese Gines on a 23-yard pass before reaching the end zone on another quarterback keep to cut the Panther lead to one possession at 17-14 with 3:36 to go in the third quarter.
The final quarter provided fireworks all around, beginning with a 44-yard run from Foley to the 22-yard line, adding another run on third and three to bring up first and goal at the 3-yard line. The Bulldogs would fail to reach the end zone, however, as a Foley pass fell incomplete to bring up a turnover on downs. Minutes later, the University of Central Arkansas commit fired a 35-yard pass to senior Wyatt Varvil to get the football to the 3-yard line once again, but the Bigelow defense stood their ground and brought Quitman to fourth and eight, bringing in senior kicker Savannah Henry, whose 26-yard field goal sailed right through the uprights and tied the game at 17-17 with 6:35 to go.
The Panthers would punt with 3:40 left to go, but Foley would throw an interception on a pass that was intended for junior receiver Trey Lovelady just twenty-two seconds later. Bigelow would capitalize on the interception, marching the ball down the field after starting at the 50-yard line, with Reed finding a wide-open Johnny Ussery in the end zone for the 18-yard touchdown with just 67 ticks on the clock remaining, giving the Panthers a 23-17 edge after the extra-point attempt failed, giving the Bulldogs one final drive to attempt to steal the victory. Starting at the 40, Foley faked a handoff to the running back and tossed the ball to Lovelady, who uncorked a 30-yard pass to Clemmons to get the offense inside the red zone at the 10-yard line. The Panther defense would come up in the clutch a final time, with Reed picking off a Foley pass to give the ball to Bigelow and following a quarterback kneel, run the clock out on a thrilling contest.
Foley led the passing game, going 18 of 32 for 224 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, also rushing 16 times for 67 yards and a touchdown. Clemmons finished with 7 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown. Quitman (1-3, 0-1) will travel to Cutter Morning Star Friday night to face an Eagle team that is 2-2 through four weeks of action in a conference showdown set for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff.