By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal
The Commerce Tigers shook off any lingering effects from a disappointing playoff loss last season to win their first game since moving to 2A following an offseason alignment.
The Tigers rode the legs of junior quarterback Sam Wells and senior wide receiver Buck Wilson to a 42-35 victory over the North Lamar Panthers.
Wilson returned the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, but the play was overturned because of a penalty. Commerce scored a few plays later on a 1-yard plunge by Wells.
The Panthers relied heavily on senior running back Chance Kelley, who scored their first touchdown on an 11-yard scamper. After a missed PAT, the Tigers still led 7-6, and Wilson added to that lead with a 96-yard punt return. The Panthers’ Ian Dukleth answered right back with a 52-yard run to tie the game 13-13. The two teams traded touchdowns once again and went into the locker room deadlocked at 21 each.
Wells connected with Wilson for a 68-yard catch and run to put Commerce up by a touchdown. After the Panthers failed to convert on a 29-yard field goal, Wells crossed the goal line on a 21-yard run to give the Tigers a 35-21 lead.
Not to be outdone, senior quarterback Austin Anthony scored a run of his own, bulling past the Tigers’ defense for a 3-yard touchdown. But senior running back Robert Jackson secured a Commerce lead for good with a 25-yard touchdown run in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
North Lamar scored again with less than a minute left, but senior running back Kalyn Smith fell on the ensuing onside kick to secure a Tiger victory.
The Tigers had discipline issues, and often had to make up ground due to false starts and holding penalties. A fumble following a defensive stop in the first half kept the defense on the field, limiting their effectiveness against the Panthers running attack. In the end, the Tigers managed to dig in and hold the Panthers at bay long enough to earn a slim lead.
Senior defensive lineman Cortez Crosby anchored the Tigers line, recording double-digit tackles, including five for loss. Jackson finished the game with 97 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Wells recorded 230 yards passing and 51 yards rushing and three total touchdowns.