Drive for 5: Spring Garden earns fifth straight region title with 47-21 win at Ragland

Staff Reports

RAGLAND – Spring Garden football coach Jason Howard said he thought everyone had written the Panthers off to win their fifth straight region championship when they lost to Wadley back on Sept. 2.

As the season has progressed, the Panthers hadn’t lost another game coming into Friday night’s Class 1A, Region 6 showdown at Ragland.

Behind Chapel Pope’s four touchdown passes and a solid defensive effort, the sixth-ranked Panthers earned their fifth straight region title with a 47-21 victory.

“I’m super proud of them,” Howard said. “For them to come back and get things corrected (from the 9-0 Wadley loss) and then come back and win the region, I think that’s huge. Now we just start preparing (for the playoffs). We’re off next week, so we can start looking at the playoffs a little bit. We’re getting to play at home, and that’s big for us. I’m tickled for this group of seniors.”

John Welsh got Spring Garden going with a 15-yard touchdown catch from Pope. He also added a 40-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers (9-1, 5-1) a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. He finished the game rushing for 93 yards on 10 carries.

Ragland (6-4, 5-1) got back in the game with a touchdown with 7:45 remaining in the first half, but Spring Garden closed out the second quarter with Pope’s 68-yard touchdown connection to Braxton Haney and a 12-yard Cam Welsh score to put the Panthers up 28-7 at halftime.

Cam Welsh opened the third-quarter scoring with a 14-yard touchdown to push the Panther lead to 35-7. Following a Ragland touchdown from Ezra Hill, Connor Bates closed out the third quarter with his 62-yard touchdown run to make the score 41-13.

Bates led the Panther running game with 109 yards on nine carries with a score.

Haney hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Pope in the fourth quarter to push Spring Garden’s lead to 47-13. Ragland scored a touchdown later in the quarter for the final.

Pope completed 4-of-8 passes for 98 yards. Haney had two catches for 82 yards and two scores.

On defense, Jacob Welsh and Noah Barber both finished with six tackles for the Panthers. Matthias Williams had four tackles and recovered a fumble.

As Howard said, the Panthers have a week off before hosting a first-round playoff game against South Lamar on Nov. 4.

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