Before we get into the summary, I would like to note this is one of the younger and less experienced squads Permian has put on the field in recent years. The Vipers come from a district that hosts the likes of powerhouse programs like Austin Westlake and Lake Travis, and Vandegrift should be a post-season team as well. Now fumbling six times and losing three of them… that’s something that can be fixed. The Panthers can now put the proverbial ‘first game jitters’ behind them. And should.
The Vipers quarterback, Alex Fernandes, was no slouch and took advantage of a Permian second possession intercepted pass. Fernandes connected on a 16-yard TD pass and then a 28-yarder on the next possession to have the Panthers trailing 14-0. A Mojo fumble on its own 25-yard line had the Vipers attempting a 35-yard field goal, but it sailed wide left. The Panthers were able to make some progress on their fourth series of downs. Four runs and three first downs pitted the Cats at the Vipers 27. Unfortunately, a fumble would kill the drive as the first quarter came to a close.
After Vandegrift reeled off a 13-play drive, the Mojo defense limited them to a 36-yard field goal. The Panthers offense took the field and were able to put together a mistake-free drive, that covered 67 yards on six running plays. Robinson was able to reach paydirt to narrow the deficit and make it a 17-6 game. Three punts between the two teams sent Permian to the locker room trailing by 11 at the intermission.
Halftime proved beneficial for the Panthers as they held the high-octane Vipers to a single field goal in the second half, while scoring touchdowns in each of the remaining quarters. Vandegrift took the opening drive of the third quarter into Permian territory and kicked a 32-yard field goal. Mojo responded with an impressive 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped off by Jaime Garza’s eight yard TD run. Steven Steen found Garza on a two-point conversion attempt to draw the Panthers to within six points, 20-14. Permian would fumble the ball away on its next possession, but the Mojo defense forced the Vipers into a three-and-out to minimize the damage. The quarter ended with the Panther offense on the field and deep into Vandegrift territory with momentum.
Permian compiled a 79-yard scoring drive that was a steady dose of runs by Robinson, Brother Miller, and Garza. The Panthers set up shop just inside the Vipers redzone. A pass interference call had Mojo, and all of the night’s miscues, knocking on the door at the 3-yard line. Robinson was not to be denied and crossed the goal line for a 20-20 tie. Jacob James nailed the extra point and for the first time all game Permian now led on the scoreboard.
Vandegrift wouldn’t go away just yet. Fernandes was able to move his offense into Permian territory on the next two drives, but came up empty both times on a 4th-and-18 and 4th-and-2 to stall the drives and turn the ball over on downs. The Mojo defense stayed resilient and bowed up when needed the most. With time running out, the Vipers got one last shot and positioned themselves for a 48-yard field goal attempt to try to win the game. A low snap gave the Mojo defense time to collapse the kicker’s protection and block the kick to end the game. It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but one that showed this young bunch of Panthers have heart and the ability to overcome adversity.
Van – Peyton Ausley 16 pass from Alex Fernandes (Yavar Bates kick), 5:11
Van – Justin Florence 28 pass from Fernandes (Bates kick), 2:33
Van – Bates 36 FG, 8:00
Per – Kobe Robinson 4 run (kick failed), 6:00
Van – Bates 32 FG, 9:30
Per – Jaime Garza 8 run (Steen to Garza conversion), 4:40
Per – Robinson 3 run (Jacob James kick), 11:47