Elmore County vs. Talladega

(Carmen Rodgers) The Elmore County High School Panthers celebrate a touchdown Friday night during the game against Talladega High School at Burt-Haynie Field in Eclectic.

The Elmore County football team had its highest scoring output of the season on Friday night, but the Panthers fell just short as their season-long losing streak reached nine games.

Talladega beat Elmore County, 51-37, in a Class 5A, Region 4 showdown. Both teams entered the game 0-8, but the Tigers left with their first win of the season while Elmore County is still searching for its first win.

Elmore County had not scored over 28 points in a game this year, and only eclipsed the 20-point mark three times this season. But Friday night, the Panthers reached the end zone five times in the loss.

“Offensively, we started out a little too fancy and tried to throw it a little too much, and we didn’t capitalize for a series or two,” Elmore County head coach Jordan Cantrell said. “We then got back to our roots and started running the ball, and we did that well. The kids played really hard and it’s just disappointing to lose. We have to stop people and I’m the head coach. That’s my fault.”

Elmore County found itself in an early hole in the second quarter, 21-7, with its lone touchdown run coming on the ground by quarterback Payton Stephenson.

The Panthers were then able to score on the ground again from Stephenson to cut the lead to 21-14, but Talladega scored a late touchdown to put itself back up, 28-14 at the half.

Coming out of the half, Elmore County continued to run the ball. Stephenson added two more touchdowns and finished the game with over 300 rushing yards, while running back C.J. Wilkes added 100 rushing yards and a touchdown as well.

Receiver/athlete Jabari Murphy also had a successful night on the ground.

“When we got the ball, we knew we could drive it down the field and score,” Cantrell said. “We had big plays all night and it was almost like every time we got the ball, it was a two-minute drill because we were trying to get back on the scoreboard. The kids did a good job of tightening the game back up all night.”

As much success as the Panthers had on offense, they struggled on defense. They gave up a season-high 51 points, and they’ve given up over 40 points in eight of their nine games this year. 

Cantrell said his team was able to hold Talladega to some third and fourth downs, but couldn’t complete drives. Late in the game with the Tigers leading, 51-35, Elmore County forced a safety to cut the score to 51-37 and get the ball back, but they couldn’t capitalize.

On the kick return following the safety, Murphy returned it for a touchdown but it was called back due to a holding penalty and the Panthers couldn’t run it back down and score.

Elmore County will close its season out with an away game at Jemison next Friday night.