It was a tale of two halves on the gridiron Friday night.
The Fairbanks Panthers exploded for 24, second-half points to defeat host West Jefferson 38-24.
The loss overshadowed a nice, two-touchdown, 123 yard rushing night by WJ’s Gabe Jones.
West Jeff scored three unanswered touchdowns to take a seven point lead going into the intermission. That, coupled with the Roughriders slated to get the second half kickoff, made the home fans confident.
But in football, momentum can change quickly, and Fairbanks made sure it did right away in the third quarter. The Panthers caused a turnover on the kickoff, and soon turned that into a Jacob Nicol to Mason Cushman touchdown pass to seemingly change both teams’ fortunes.
“We have to protect the football,” said West Jeff coach Shawn Buescher. “We dominated the first half, and then we gave it away.”
On the Roughriders second possession, Fairbanks took it away again. This time they converted it into a field goal, and a 24-21 Panthers lead.
A long run by Jones seemed to get West Jefferson rolling, but eventually they were forced to punt.
Unfortunately, that put it into the hands of Fairbanks quarterback, Nicol. The crafty southpaw controlled the field, throwing for 300-plus yards and three touchdowns (plus one on the ground) for the Panthers.
This drive did not end in a Nicol scoring pass, but rather a rushing touchdown for Charlie Scheiderer.
West Jefferson was able to pull it within seven points as Roughriders kicker Nathaniel Dersom connected on a 30-yard field goal.
The fortunes appeared to have turned again as Roughrider Wyatt Dillion intercepted Nicol as the third quarter was winding down, but West Jeff could not convert.
Fairbanks put their last scoring drive of the day to start the fourth quarter. Nicol connected with Tyler Beem from 33 yards out to reach the 38-24 final.
West Jefferson made a valiant comeback in the first half after spotting the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
The Roughriders put together three good drives that culminated with touchdowns on the ground — two by Gabe Jones and one by Justin Williams.
West Jeff was led on defense by Hunter Braithwaite and Chet Lohr with nine tackled each.
The Roughriders have an important league game next week when they travel to Mechanicsburg.
“You have to give them a lot of credit for playing the way they did,” Buescher said of Fairbanks. “But we had a lot of mistakes we have to clean up.”