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6 a.m., Feb. 22
PACIFIC BEACH – Mission Bay employed a two-quarterback rotation against Horizon on Friday afternoon – and it was the backup led the Buccaneers to victory. Sophomore quarterback Devon Johnson rallied Mission Bay by leading a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives, and the hosts held off the Panthers 27-24 to remain undefeated.
“This is really important to us,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working all week and talking about being 2-0, and we had to be the stronger team.”
Midway through the second quarter, Mission Bay (2-0) broke a scoreless tie with a Johnson two-yard touchdown run. On the Buccaneers’ next offensive possession, Horizon senior defensive back Markel Byrd intercepted a Johnson pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown that made it 7-6 headed into halftime.
“I didn’t really expect to play that much in this game because I didn’t really know the plays,” Johnson said. “I had to step up – I messed up a few times but I got it together.”
Mission Bay struck quickly at the start of the third quarter, increasing its lead when junior receiver Andre Petties-Wilson returned the second half kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Petties-Wilson’s return made it a 14-6 game and set the tone for a back-and-forth second half.
“That got us pumped up,” Johnson said. “We were back in the game.”
Horizon (1-1) answered with a pair of touchdowns in quick succession to take the lead. For the second score, the Panthers drove 98 yards in less than two minutes to take an 18-14 lead on a Byrd 35-yard pass to senior Donte Cretain with 6:46 left in the quarter.
“We had to get our composure back and just keep on fighting,” said Mission Bay senior linebacker Jo Jo Griffin.
After rotating Johnson and junior starter Nick Plum, Mission Bay settled on the sophomore late in the third quarter. With 11:52 to play in the game, Johnson put the Buccaneers ahead by three with an 11-yard scramble on fourth-and-four – a run which included a pump fake that sent Horizon senior linebacker Benjamin Seltzer airborne.
“I just showed the ball, made him jump and got in the end zone,” Johnson said. “It was a pass play that turned into a run.”
After a Horizon punt, Mission Bay extended its lead to 27-18 with a 51-yard scoring drive capped by a Johnson 15-yard pass to senior receiver Kelly Weese with 2:42 remaining. The Panthers added a late score, but the Buccaneers were able to hang on and win the battle of early-season unbeatens.
“It’s unexpected, but we just work hard at practice and we’ve come together as one big piece,” said Griffin, who didn’t play last year due to eligibility issues. “We need to go back to practice and keep on working.”
In a losing effort, Horizon senior receiver Darren Carrington caught 10 passes for 161 yards. The Oregon-bound Carrington was the focal point of the Panthers’ passing attack, and was targeted throughout the game.
Pictured: Horizon senior quarterback Markel Byrd hurdles a pair of Mission Bay defenders along the sideline