Each year the Class 8A, District 5 title race always seems to come down to rivals Olympia and Dr. Phillips, and this year is no different.
With both teams going into Friday night’s game 2-0 in district play, it was something that was on the minds of both Panthers’ Head Coach Rodney Wells and Titans’ Head Coach Travis Gabriel.
But just as the two teams have fought for district glory, history repeated itself again as Dr. Phillips defeated Olympia 38-3 — the Panthers 17th consecutive victory over the Titans.
“It’s big,” Well said. “We still have two games left in the district, so it’s not done — we just have to finish the season. But anytime you have the opportunity over your rival to do something like this is huge.”
The story of the night for the Panthers (6-2, 3-0) comes down to two things: An explosive run game and a stifling defense.
Of the Panthers’ 297-rushing yards, 170 yards came via the shifty feet of Brandon Fields, who also scored two touchdowns on the night — both of which came in the first quarter.
Meanwhile the Panthers’ defense held the Titans (3-4, 2-1) in check just about the whole night — only giving up 99-total yards and three points.
The defense struck early in the game when Olympia — looking to get something going early — handed the ball over to the Panthers after being stuffed on a fake punt at their own 21-yard line. The Titans would have an answer on defense, however, and held the Panthers to a 26 yard field goal by Riley Stephens at the 8:05 mark.
Less than three minutes later Fields would pick up his first rushing touchdown of the night, as he dashed down the left side of the field on a 27-yard run. The PAT would make it 10-0.
“We still have two games left in the district, so it’s not done — we just have to finish the season. But anytime you have the opportunity over your rival to do something like this is huge.”
— Rodney Wells
The Panthers would get the last score of the half when Fields once again broke free on the outside for an 11-yard touchdown run with just under 30 seconds left in the first quarter. The following PAT would be the last score seen in the first half — sending Dr. Phillips into the locker room up 17-0.
While the Panthers’ offense dominated, the Titans’ offense would spend almost the entire first half backed up in their own territory — only making it into Dr. Phillips’ side of the field late in the half. That defensive output by the Panthers was led by Shi Gaskin (seven tackles, one sack) and Alberto Guzman (six tackles).
Though the score was 17-0 at the half, it could have been much worse for the Titans, but the Panthers were penalty prone. Overall the Panthers picked up 11 total penalties for a whopping 113 yards on the night.
“We played sloppy,” Wells said. “Way too many penalties, especially in the first half — the score should have been much different, but our defense just kept going out there and getting stops.”
In the second half the Panthers would once again kick off the scoring. Running back Jayden Taylor took the snap out of the wildcat and rumbled for a 4-yard touchdown run. The PAT would make it 24-0 with 7:38 in the third quarter.
The Titans would finally get on the board late in the third quarter, after their best drive of the night against the Panthers’ defense — though it didn’t come with ease. After a bad snap was bobbled around, kicker Colby Kintner put the ball through the upright to give the Titans three points.
Later in the fourth quarter — after being largely shut down by Olympia’s impressive pass defense — Panthers’ quarterback Isaiah Givens found his groove as he hit Jacquez Jones and Ledger Hatch for 17 and 37-yard touchdowns through the air to seal up the 38-3 win. Givens finished the night going 5-for-10 for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
The win was big in the moment for Wells and the Panthers, but it’s even bigger when you take into account the struggles that the team faced to start the season, Wells said.
“These seniors stepped up,” Wells said. “I just told them about us going through an identity crisis — being really low after our first two games against Edgewater and Seminole — things didn't look good and no one believed in us, but these seniors and these captains they just stayed together, stayed in the weight room and believed in the program.”
Both Dr. Phillips and Olympia return to district action on Thursday, Oct. 17, with the Panthers playing host to East Ridge, while the Titans are on the road at Boone.