Cougars, Smith, run wild on Panthers
by David Grindstaff
The Mountain Heritage junior varsity football team won their season opener 36-14 Thursday over the Patton Panthers in Morganton. The Cougars jumped out to a big lead early in the first quarter and were never threatened the non-conference game.
It took the Cougars little time to get going, and when they did the Panthers had no answer. Heritage featured the running of Maleek Smith and Bryson Cooper on their opening drive that climaxed with a little over six minutes to play in the first half when Smith slipped over into the end zone from four yards out. Smith also carried for the two point conversion and the Cougars were on top 8-0 early following a drive that stayed strictly on the ground.
The Panthers were facing a 4th down with from their own end zone late in the first quarter when a short punt gave the Cougars another early scoring opportunity.
After taking control at the Patton 23 yard line, Heritage faced 4th and 4 from the 13 when Maleek Smith broke containment again and reached the end zone to put the Cougars on top 14-0.
The Panthers were unable to turn anything into points in the first half, and the Cougars seized even more of the momentum when they increased their lead to 22-0 in the second quarter when Heritage QB Bryson Cooper connected on his first pass of the game for a touchdown when he hooked up with, guess who, Maleek Smith on a play that covered 30 yards. Smith got the call on the two point conversion run as well and Heritage was cruising as halftime neared.
But the Cougars were not finished. After getting the ball back in Panther territory following a Patton punt, Heritage increased the lead to 28-0 when Adam Shuford carried the rock across, following his blockers into the end zone to add an exclamation point to a well played first half of football for the Cougars.
The Panthers hurt themselves throughout the game with penalties but did manage two second half scores while the Cougars tacked on an insurance score in the 4th quarter on a beautifully executed 99 yard TD jaunt. Maleek Smith broke through the Panther line and won a foot 99-yard footrace to the end zone to put the icing on the Heritage victory cake and cap a hard fought 36-14 win for the Cougars.
Heritage will travel to Asheville to take on a talented Erwin JV this Thursday night. The Warriors were the only team to beat the Cougars last season so you can expect a hard fought game on both sides of the football. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.