GOTW THRILLER: Stone Memorial Holds Off White County In 28-26 Showdown

By Michael Lindsay


Friday’s UCR Game of the Week came down to the final second as the Stone Memorial Panthers picked up a 28-26 victory at White County to improve to 4-0 overall.

“Excellent game,” said Stone Memorial head coach Derik Samber. “We challenged our defense starting last Friday and they rose to the challenge. That kid (White County QB Tripp Pinion) is a heck of a ball player.”

White County possessed the ball on the final play of the game, but Stone Memorial turned them away as Panther defensive backs Maddox Oquendo and Preston Mayberry batted down a Warrior pass as time expired to seal the 2-point victory.

“It’s resiliency and toughness; every single one of them,” Samber said. “We’re a senior-led football team with the right mindset; they’re winners.”

White County quarterback Tripp Pinion showed out despite the loss as he rushed for 209 yards and 4 touchdowns while throwing for 173 yards and a score through the air.

“We did okay on containing him and made him work for most of it,” Samber said. “You can’t simulate it; he’s such a good athlete. Preston Mayberry gave us a look as the scout quarterback this week.”

Pinion has rushed for 1,003 yards and 15 touchdowns through the first 4 games of the season.

Offensively, Stone Memorial went to the ground more than the previous three weeks as the Panthers rushed for 178 yards led by quarterback Nick Osmun with 102 and a touchdown on 19 carries. Osmun went 9-16 through the air for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns.

“That was something we took pride in,” said Samber on their rushing success. “That’s part of our identity and we were able to go do tonight.”

Neither team found the end zone in the first quarter despite both offenses averaging more than 30 points per game entering the contest.

“A little sloppy from both of us; we had a turnover early and some penalties,” said Samber. “Our defense rose to the challenge and did a pretty good job of containing Tripp early.”

Pinion broke loose early the second period as a 66-yard rush down to the Stone Memorial 4-yard line set himself up for a touchdown on the next play to give Sparta a 6-0 lead with 10:05 until halftime.

White County’s lead lasted approximately 15 seconds as Stone Memorial’s Maddox Oquendo returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards to the end zone to give the Panthers a 7-6 advantage with 9:50 remaining in the second period.

“The offense was stalling and we were shooting ourselves in the foot early,” Samber said. “We got a special teams spark; I’ve taken a lot of pride in it. It may have won us a game tonight.”

Stone Memorial found the end zone once more in the first half as senior QB Nick Osmun connected with tight end Brady Lane for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:20 left until the break to give the Panthers a 14-6 lead.

White County marched down the field with less than 30 seconds left in the second quarter and had the ball first-and-goal inside the Panther 3-yard line before a fumble with 12 seconds left stalled the Warrior drive and sent the game to halftime.

White County came within a point midway through the third period as Pinion scored his second touchdown of the night from 15 yards out to make the score 14-13 with 6:39 left in the third quarter.

The Panthers responded as Osmun powered in a 1-yard touchdown late in the third period to give Stone Memorial a 21-13 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Pinion opened the fourth quarter with a 35-yard touchdown run to close the gap to two points following a failed PAT 21-19.

Stone Memorial answered less than 2 minutes later as Maddox Oquendo took a 15-yard touchdown pass from Osmun into the end zone for a touchdown to put the Panthers ahead 28-19 with 10:05 left.

“Maddox is a weapon,” Samber said. “We schemed stuff up to him twice and hit it for a first down and touchdown.”

The Panthers’ 2-possession lead lasted until the 7:10 mark as Pinion hit Darvon Richmond on a 40-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-26 Stone Memorial with 7:10 remaining.

The Panthers went into clock-control mode as they ate up 5:50 before the White County defense stopped them on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line to retake possession with 1:20 remaining and no timeouts with 99 yards to go.

White County got within striking distance as the Warriors had two plays from the Stone Memorial 44-yard line, but neither found the end zone as Stone Memorial held on for the 28-26 victory.

The Panthers improve to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in Region 4-4A while White County drops to 2-2 and 0-1 in region play. Stone Memorial is 10-5 in one-possession games in 6 seasons under Samber.

“Sparta joined this region that I’ve called the ‘SEC of 4A’ and it sure feels that way,” Samber said. “We had all those 1-point games last year and the Cookeville game this year. Our guys are battle-tested and go make the plays to win the game.”

Stone Memorial is set to travel to Meigs County next week while White County hits the road to Baxter to face the Upperman Bees.