By Josh Kraeger
Special to the Daily
What most people thought to be a certain blowout turned into a defensive struggle between the Mt. Zion Bulldogs and Forest Park Panthers, with the Bulldogs edging the Panthers 13-0 for the win Friday night at Tara Stadium.
Mt. Zion came out enthusiastic, with high hopes for an improvement upon last week's performance, but were stifled from the start by Forest Park's defensive intensity. The Bulldogs and Panthers traded possessions for much of the first half, each team scoreless until the high-octane Bulldog offense came out firing. Fueled by senior Todd Taylor's monstrous sack of the Panthers' quarterback, Mt. Zion's sophomore quarterback Montel Buchanan staged an aerial assault on the Panther defense.
His efforts combined with the tandem tailback attack of senior Quarterrio Morgan and senior Josh King fueled a late drive in the second quarter that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown run by Morgan. The Bulldogs defense held the Panthers scoreless for the rest of the game and made some defensive statements along the way.
"The momentum was up, the intensity was real high, and it was a hard fought game with much more emotion," Taylor said. Taylor was a defensive standout throughout the game for the Bulldogs. He accumulated four sacks throughout the game, including the second quarter throwdown that sent Panthers' junior quarterback Jameyan Wilson out of the game.
His play, along with the combined efforts of seniors Austin Smith, Nick Thrasher, Justin Hodgens and junior Kieth Darnell, paced the Bulldogs defensive efforts and guided them to victory.
"All the seniors bring tradition, leadership, and brotherhood to the field," Taylor said. The brotherhood will be much needed in the coming week, as Hodgens was carried off the field on a stretcher after suffering an injury in the second half.
"It hurt me real bad since I'm real close to him," Morgan said. The seniors are not the only leaders on the team however, as Buchanan proved tonight.
"It feels good to be in the role I'm playing, it's a lot of pressure but I'm just letting Morgan and King do what they do and taking it from there," Buchanan said. Buchanan played an integral role in Mt. Zion's victory tonight, going 9-18 for 125 yards, with 28 yards on the ground.
"We came out and worked harder tonight, executed most of our plays, but we did have too many penalties," Buchanan said. The team was hit hard with penalties, two of which resulted in touchdown plays being called back. Although the Panthers had more penalty yards than the Bulldogs, it is something Mt. Zion will look to improve on as the season progresses.
"We need to stay more disciplined and that's all we can do," Morgan said. Both Buchanan and Taylor agreed with Morgan's statement, and both are setting their sights higher for the rest of the season.
"We've just got to stay healthy, keep in good shape, and we're going to lead Mt. Zion back to state this year," Taylor said. Buchanan also thinks the state championship is a possibility for the Bulldogs, but acknowledged the fact they will face stiff competition for the rest of the season.
"From the looks of it, Lovejoy, North Clayton and Creekside are our biggest competition so far, so we just have to come out, execute and run the boards," Buchanan said.
Mt. Zion (2-0) will get its chance to prove itself when it face off against Creekside next week at Southern Crescent Stadium. Forest Park (0-3) will look to bounce back against a well-rested Jonesboro team, who had their bye week this week.