Parkview #4 Justis Rosser
MARIETTA -- Parkview entered Friday's first-round playoff matchup against Walton needing big games from the backfield to make up for the loss of Chris Carson's 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Justis Rosser stepped up big time.
Rosser ran wide around the right side for a 15-yard TD in the second overtime to secure a 20-17 win over Walton and a date with West Forsyth in the Class AAAAAA second round next week.
"It feels great," Rosser said. "It gives us a chance to play next week. Playoffs, round No. 2. Looking for another W."
Parkview coach Cecil Flowe complimented the big games by Rosser and fellow running back Shaq Vereen.
"(Rosser) is a winner," Flowe said. "He likes to play, and he's been a real pistol for us all year long. We lost our quarterback in week 2, so we had to put a lot of wildcat (formation) stuff in. He's carried the load and done a good job. "Shaq Vereen, I thought did a great job, too. I took him out of mothballs. He's been a free safety all year, but he used to be a running back. And he did a good job for us, too."
The Panther defense came up big in Walton's possession in the second overtime to set up Rosser's winning run. J.D. Smith (23 carries, 95 yards, TD) took the ball to the 1 on the first play of the period. On second down, he ran wide right toward what looked like an open end zone, but a Parkview defender grabbed his jersey at the one to hold him up until half the defense arrived to stop Davis short. A loss on the next play by Justice Bailey and an incompletion on third down forced Walton to settle for a 19-yard field goal by Anthony Price.
Vereen scored for Parkview (8-3) in the first overtime from the 2-yard line after a big first-down completion to tight end Larry Veal. But Walton's Smith caught a 21-yard TD pass from Parker McLeod to tie the game up after the first overtime.
The Panthers struggled a lot on offense in the first three quarters against a tough Walton (7-4) defense. Vereen (17 carries, 98 yards, TD) made most of the big running plays in the first half for Parkview, including his top carry of 29 yards. But penalties and turnovers kept the Panthers from getting into scoring position.
Just two plays into the fourth quarter, Rosser (17 carries, 91 yards, 2 TDs) took care of that with a 52-yard TD run that had shades of former Parkview standout Brad Lester with at least three broken tackles. The Panthers almost snuck in a quick two-point conversion for the lead, but a penalty forced Tyler Stephenson to tie the game at 7-7 with 10:17 remaining in the game.
"I was getting stuffed all game, and then it finally opened up," Rosser said. "I stayed true to my reads, and I think that gave us a lot of momentum."
Rob Youngblood came up big for Parkview on both sides of the ball. The senior, who has been hobbled a bit by an injury, recovered the ball for the Panthers after Walton's Smith fumbled on the first drive of the game, giving the visitors the ball on the Walton 44 early. But a five-yard penalty and a couple of incompletions stalled Parkview and forced a punt. The teams swapped possessions with little offense, and Mac Marshall's pass on third and 12 was intercepted by Taquar Stewart and set up Walton's only score in regulation.
After a 35-yard completion by Parker McLeod to Ryan Craig, Smith took a handoff on the next play and ran off tackle right, cut back across the field and strolled into the end zone for a TD. Price's kick was good to give the Raiders a 7-0 lead.
Marshall threw another pick on the next possession and Keanu Mole fumbled a ball after a big hit on an end around on the drive after that, giving Parkview three turnovers before the first quarter was over.
But a combination of good defense and Walton penalties pushed the Raiders from the 17 back to the 45 on third down and kept the home team from putting Parkview in a big hole and giving it the chance to come back late.
Youngblood came in at quarterback in the second half and completed his first four passes for 26 yards, helping open up some running lanes after Walton had stacked the box early.
After Parkview tied the game up in the fourth, Youngblood recovered his second fumble of the game on the first play of the Raiders' drive.
"The defense stepped up like always," Youngblood said. "Our linemen came through. ... Shaq came in -- he hasn't played running back before this year -- and played great. It was a great team effort."
That set up a drive that took more than six minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter and a chance for Stephenson to put the Panthers up. But a mishandled hold ended the scoring chance.
After the game, Flowe talked to his players about the importance of keeping their season alive and the responsibility of practicing on Thanksgiving before the second-round matchup the next day. He also praised the effort Marshall put forth under center in the first half and the leadership Youngblood showed in the second.
"Mac thinks he sees what he's supposed to see sometimes, and he's trying awful hard, and he'll just get the ball to the wrong guy," Flowe said. "We're trying to get him to just not chuck it down the field. But he's young. He was thrown into a role, and I've got nothing but good things to say about him.
"I felt like in the second half we needed to put Rob in to take us down the road a little bit. His confidence is good. He knows where he wants the ball to go."