ANNA — Seniors Keelan Crosby and Aaron Lee combined for 318 yards rushing to boost Anna (6-1, 2-0) past Quinlan Ford, 35-21, in District 7-4A Div. I action at Coyote Stadium on Friday, Oct. 20. Quarterback Crosby rambled for 188 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries while Lee rolled to 130 yards on 18 tries as Anna’s big offensive line paved the way. The Coyotes’ Josh Abara also roamed for nine yards per carry on four attempts.
On the flip side, Quinlan Ford (5-2, 0-2) was held to 80 rushing yards by a stingy Coyotes defense that also posted three fumble recoveries and an interception. Senior quarterback Linus Beierschmitt was the Panthers’ go-to weapon this night, throwing for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed for another score in the game’s waning seconds.
“This is big,” Anna head coach Jason Heath said of the victory. “Last year, we went over there to their place and lost. It didn’t take much this week to get them motivated. We had three of the best practices this week that we’ve had. You could just sense that these guys wanted it. I’m extremely proud of them for the way they practiced this week — not only that, but the way they came out here and played the ball game tonight.”
“We were really motivated,” Lee said. “Last year, we were beating them in the first half but in the second half, we gave up 28 points. That motivated us to maintain our position on top and keep on giving it to them.”
Said senior Antonio Moon, whose fourth-quarter interception ended a Panther threat, “I feel like a lot of the senior players, they felt disrespected about last year.”
Anna wasted no time in establishing momentum in this game, with Crosby dashing 49 yards for a touchdown on the Coyotes’ first play from scrimmage. In the second quarter, Emmonte Davis fell on a Panthers loose ball at the Quinlan Ford 26, but Anna’s ensuing possession ended on a fourth-and-1 try from the 16. One play later, Abner Dubar smothered another Panther fumble, this time at Quinlan Ford’s 25, and soon Crosby scooted into the end zone again — one play after Lee’s 29-yard scamper to the Panther 2.
Just when it appeared the rout was on, Beierschmitt fired a 64-yard strike to Dustin Fulbright to cut Anna’s lead to 13-7. The Coyotes came back with an 85-yard, 12-play scoring drive capped by Crosby’s 11-yard run and the advantage moved back to 13, at 20-7, with 1:20 left before halftime. Seconds later, defensive end Bubba Jones’ fumble recovery in Anna territory thwarted Quinlan Ford’s attempt to answer.
The Coyotes kept up the pressure after the break, with Noah Palshaw returning the second-half kick-off to the Panthers’ 23. On the next play, Crosby cruised into the end zone for his fourth TD of the game and, after Davis’ 2-point conversion catch, Anna led, 28-7.
Quinlan Ford showed life again with a 72-yard, 12-play drive topped by Beierschmitt’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Kobe Jennings. But Crosby and the Coyotes responded, marching 62 yards for their final score — a 10-yard Crosby-to-Davis pass that sent Anna’s lead to 35-14 with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter.
The Panthers’ next possession ended when Moon picked off Beierschmitt’s deep ball over the middle and returned it to near midfield. When Quinlan Ford later moved to Anna’s 25-yard-line with under six minutes left to play, Jones killed the drive with back-to-back sacks.
Fernando Rodriguez then came on in relief of Crosby and rushed for 24 yards on five carries, for a healthy 4.8 yards per carry. The Panthers finally reached the end zone again on Beierschmitt’s 9-yard run with 14 seconds remaining.
“They formation you to death, they motion, they shift,” Heath said of the Panthers’ offense. “They try to out-number you. And what we wanted to do defensively was just be basic up front, with slight adjustments here and there and let our kids go play. We gave up one play there in the first half. … But we responded the right way. We talked at halftime about coming out and scoring, and it took one play.
“We knew their quarterback is an extremely good player,” Heath added. “We knew we had to stop him. He makes them go offensively and defensively. He’s a competitor.”
Lee, healthy now after injury, said missing this season’s first three games had been tough. “But when I stepped back onto the field, I knew that it was my time. I’m just trying to get better and better. I feel great.”
The Coyotes travel to face Texarkana Liberty-Eylau (2-5, 1-1) on Friday, Oct. 27.