PONDER — The Ponder Lions ended their season in disappointing fashion as they let a halftime lead slip away in a 30-27 loss to the Paradise Panthers.
The Panthers (1-9, 1-5 District 5-2A) scored 14 points in the third quarter to take a 24-19 lead and added an insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter, when Taylor Edwards put the ball in from a yard away.
At halftime, Paradise was happy to be down just nine points. Ponder (2-8, 0-6) had dominated on offense and defense, but spotty special teams play helped Paradise out. The Panthers blocked a punt that they returned for a touchdown and then, after an offsides penalty, punched the ball in for a two-point conversion.
Later, after a Brennan Sooter 22-yard scamper into the end zone, the Lion’s extra-point attempt was fumbled and returned the length of the field by Paradise for two points.
The Panthers were incapable of passing the ball all night, completing one attempt. However, their offense was led by a very balanced running game, with five players rushing the ball at least five times. Jarrett Roper was prominent in the first half, but the role of primary back shifted to Taylor Edwards as the game progressed, and he didn’t disappoint.
On an incredibly windy night, it was certainly a disappointment for head coach Russ Phillips.
“We’ve got an outstanding group of seniors,” Phillips said. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get it done and come out on top, and I feel bad for those kids. They’ve given everything they had — four years on the football field.”
Also disappointing was wasting a great performance by one of those seniors in Sooter, who finished with 37 carries for 239 yards. He also caught two passes for 32 yards.
Edwards finished with 11 carries for 74 yards, while Roper ran the ball 14 times netting 124 yards.
Ponder was able to drive for a late touchdown, but the Lions were unable to recover the onside kick with just over a minute to go.
“We expect to win every time we step on the field, and we expect our players to have that mentality,” Phillips said. “We’re going to come mentally tougher and physically tougher next season.”
Paradise 30, Ponder 27
Po — Reid Sanders 4 run (Kristal Williams kick)
Pa — Brandon Meadows 34 blocked punt return (Chris Lowery run)
Po — Brennan Sooter 22 pass from Reid Sanders (kick failed)
Pa — Fumble return of extra-point attempt
Po — Brennan Sooter 1 run (kick failed)
Pa — Josh McDowell 32 run (McDowell pass from Tanner Valentine)
Pa — Jarrett Roper 3 run (run failed)
Pa — Taylor Edwards 1 run (pass failed)
Po — Dylan Nichelson 4 pass from Sanders (Yurttas pass from Sanders)
Rushing — Po: Brennan Sooter 37-239, Reid Sanders 5-5, Trey Dunlap 1-8. Pa: Chris Lowery 5-4, Tanner Valentine 9-0, Taylor Edward 11-74, Jarrett Roper 14-124, Josh McDowell 5-49, Callahan Storey 1-2.
Passing — Po: Reid Sanders 13-34-1 170. Pa: Tanner Valentine 1-6-1 5.
Receiving — Po: Dylan Nichelson 2-11, John Yurttas 2-42, Christian Worthington 6-75, Nick King 4-56, Brennan Sooter 2-32. Pa: Jarrett Roper 1-5