By Will Heath, For the Tribune
SOUTHSIDE — The battle lived up to its billing.
Sixth-ranked Leeds and Region 6 leader Southside were locked in a physical, defensive affair on Friday night at Barney Hood Stadium, with neither side able to break away.
When that dam finally broke, it was the Panthers who did it.
Southside burned Leeds’ staunch defense on plays of 49, 53 and 52 yards Friday night, enough to propel them to a 23-13 victory over the defending region champs. The Panthers (6-1, 4-0) now lead by a game.
“The job’s not done until the job’s done,” Southside head coach Miles Holcomb said. “Tonight, we just found a way to just keep playing, until it was over.”
The purported battle between Leeds’ defense and Southside’s Mason Teague came to pass. Teague earned 56 yards on the ground in the first quarter, then didn’t have a run longer than 4 yards for most of the rest of the game.
Most of it.
Leading by 16, with Leeds desperate to regain possession in the fourth quarter, and facing 3rd and 10, Teague shifted into the QB position from his normal running back slot and took the direct snap. That snap turned into a 52-yard run for a touchdown, effectively icing the game.
Teague finished with 130 yards.
“Just punch and punch and punch, and soon enough you find one to break,” Holcomb said. “Mason found one to break at the right time.”
Leeds (4-2, 2-1) finished with 351 yards of offense, 304 of it coming from quarterback Conner Nelson, both rushing and throwing. Nelson also scored both Green Wave TDs.
Still, the Green Wave didn’t score until the 5:30 mark of the fourth quarter, repeatedly killing possessions with major-distance penalties and mistakes.
Among them, an 8-yard loss on fourth down when the team was in punt formation in the second quarter. That led to a Southside field goal that made it 9-0 at halftime.
“Southside played better than us and they won the game,” Hood said. “We were up against … a lot of folks tonight. So, a lot to overcome.”
Nelson’s counterpart, Southside’s Jordan Bryan, completed only 4 passes in the game. Two of them, however, went for touchdowns. On the Panthers’ first possession, he found Kody Kueny for a 49-yard TD. Early in the fourth quarter, he did it again, this time hooking up with Cayden McMichael for a 54-yard score on 3rd-and-19.
“I thought the defense hung in there good until the end,” Hood said. “They broke away from us.”
Hood demurred after the game when asked about penalties.
“We’ll get a big fat letter from the AHSAA if I say what I want to say,” he said. “… We’re going to look at the tape. If it’s necessary, then we’ll take it where it needs to be.”
Leeds will return home to face Alexandria in region play next week. Southside gets the week off, before facing Alexandria in two weeks.