Staff reports 4:01 p.m. PST November 21, 2016
The Hartnell Panthers football team lost in a close game to the Merced Blue Devils in the Stadium-76 Bowl on Friday 14-13.
The Panthers had the ball at their own two-yard line with just over two minutes left in the game in a drive Hartnell was hoping would get them in field goal range for a potential game-winning attempt.
Instead, the Panthers managed to go 23 yards on seven plays before Panthers quarterback Randy Ivey threw his second interception of the game to seal the victory for Merced seconds later as they knelt down to run out the final 22 seconds of the game.
The teams went through a scoreless first quarter before Merced?s Jaques Buchannon scampered into the end zone from 21 yards out to give the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead with 14:!9 left in the half. Buchannon finished the game with 130 yards on the ground on 21 carries and the one touchdown for the game.
Hartnell wasted little time to respond as J?uan Campbell caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Dorion Isaak to tie the game up a 7-7 with 12:23 left in the first half.
The score would remain tied at 7-7 until early in the fourth quarter when Merced?s Kamilo Tongamoa would recover Deairus Spencer?s fumble in the end zone to give the Blue Devils a 14-7 lead.
Hartnell would score on its ensuing possession on a two-play drive that ended with a Randy Ivey 44-yard touchdown run. The extra point was missed, however, and the Blue Devils held on to a slim 14-13 lead with 13:49 left in the game.
Hartnell would have a chance to take the lead with two more possessions in the game, but the Panthers were only able to get 46 total yards of offense on 15 plays in those two drives and Merced held on for the 14-13 final.
Hartnell finishes its season with a 6-5 record and on a three-game losing streak. The Panthers finished the 2015 season with a 10-1 record en route to a Living Breath Foundation Bowl victory over Contra Costa 41-28 in Salinas.
The Panthers seemed ready to repeat 2015?s success as they jumped out to a 3-1 start with wins over Foothill (30-16), Mendocino (20-19) and Reedley (21-19).
he winning ways for the Panthers continued in the month of October as they went 3-1 again with victories over Gavilan (44-14), Cabrillo (16-8) and West Hills Coalinga (40-32).
In the final month of the season, Hartnell fell as they lost all three of its games on the road that saw the 2-1 road record for the Panthers slip to 2-4 and ultimately the 6-5 overall finish on the season.