Panthers run for 261 yards in win against Creekside

A long, long time ago, Bobby Humphries learned a lesson in coaching he still keeps close to his belt.

“Sometimes, things are never as good as they seem, but then they’re never as bad as they are either,” he said.

Humphries saw his share of good and bad Wednesday night in Palatka High School’s spring football exhibition with Creekside, taking the Knights down at The Pit, 21-0, behind a ground game that lugged the ball 48 times for 261 yards, led by 74 yards on 14 carries from Brian Smith, 53 yards on four carries by Treyvon Williams and another 50 yards on 12 carries by quarterback James Campbell.

Overall, Humphries liked what he saw with Campbell ... well, except for one thing.

“I thought he moved the ball well for us, but he kept putting it down on the ground,” said Humphries, the second-year Palatka High head coach, afterward. “That’s disappointing. We could run the ball well, but we can’t keep the ball moving if we put it on the ground.”

Palatka coughed the ball up five times, but thankfully for the Panthers, they lost it only twice. Still, that didn’t sit well with Humphries. Neither did a few drives Creekside have in which receivers got open. But when it came time to make stops, the Panthers’ defense did. They sacked numerous Creekside quarterbacks five times for the night, two by sophomore lineman Jordan Miller.

“We did just enough defensively to win this game,” Humphries said. “There were not a lot of three-and-outs for us, but when it came time to make a play, our guys rose up and did that on third downs.”

After the Panthers made a stop of the Knights, a winless team in 2015, at the Panther 35 on the opening drive of the night, Campbell and the offense went into high gear, starting with a 33-yard pass from Campbell to Markell Rasher to the Knight 32, followed by a 12-yard run by Smith, a 13-yard scramble out of the pocket by Campbell, a 6-yard run by Rasher and a 1-yard dive into the end zone by Smith to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead after Carson Wright’s extra-point kick just 4:13 into the game.

Late in the first half, the Panthers scored on an 84-yard drive that took up six plays, the highlight being a down-the-middle pass from Campbell to Demareyae Givens, who hauled in the high pass on the fly, then juked a couple of defenders until being taken down at the Creekside 21 for a 56-yard gain. Four plays later, Givens got in for the score, making it 14-0 with Wright providing the extra-point kick.

The Knights had opportunities most of the evening to make something happen on offense, but hard-luck quarterbacks, especially starter Daniel Slavin, watched in horror as receivers dropped passes in wide-open areas. Creekside actually had its best scoring threat on the drive immediatley after the first PHS score. Slavin hit J.T. Wood with a pass down the left sideline for 44 yards and appeared to take out the front pylon of the end zone, which should have made it an automatic touchdown.

But the officials did not rule as such, putting the ball on the 1. On the next play, running back Vance Bennett fumbled and Robert Passmore recovered the ball at the 3, destroying the drive.

With most of the junior varsity players on the field in the fourth quarter, the Panthers scored their last touchdown as Deonte Collins scampered in for a 3-yard run to finish a six-play, 19-yard drive set up on an interception and 49-yard return by Tyamos Martin.

Despite a case of the drops on his handoffs, Campbell was proficient in the passing game when asked to throw, going 3-of-5 passing for 110 yards.