MELISSA — Stepping up in classification to play a 4A powerhouse, Pottsboro lost a regular season game for the first time in 15 tries dating back to 2018, losing to Melissa 51-17, in a battle of Cardinals in non-district action.

Pottsboro (2-1), received the opening kickoff and started well, driving 66 yards in 13 plays, sparked by Jett Carroll at quarterback in place of Braden Plyler for the first half. He ran or passed on 10 of the plays. But the methodical drive stalled after it burned almost half of the opening quarter and Jacob McDonald booted a 25-yard field goal.

After Antonio Robinson returned the kickoff to Pottsboro’s 49-yard line, Melissa (3-0) need little time to take the lead on Ashton Mitchell-Johnson’s 17-yard touchdown run. Just a few plays later, Carlos Branch stepped in front of a Carroll pass and returned it 55 yards for the score, weaving in and around opponents before crossing the goal line. Having missed its first extra point, Melissa went for two points and quarterback Sam Fennegan flipped a pass to Jacob Kusano for the conversion.

Melissa tacked on another touchdown when Fennegan, who completed 12-of-14 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns found Jack Richardson in the middle of the end zone from 27-yards out, the third Melissa touchdown in a little more than seven minutes. Melissa lined up to kick the extra point but Colton Wittwer fumbled the snap, picked up the ball and rolled to his right before tossing a pass to Isaiah Cherry for two points.

After an exchange of punts Carroll led another long drive, using nine plays to reach Melissa’s 30-yard line but Major McBride, who had six carries for 61 yards to lead Pottsboro, was stopped a yard short on a fourth-and-two with 2:35 left in the first half. Rather than run out the clock, Melissa leaned on Mitchell-Johnson, who carried the ball four times for 46 yards on the drive, finishing with a 16-yard TD run, for a 30-3 halftime lead. He totaled nine carries for 81 yards.

After receiving the second half kickoff, Melissa drove 70 yards in 10 plays with Branch scoring his second touchdown, this time on a pass from Fennegan.

Plyler took over at quarterback and completed four-of-five passes on the drive — two each to Jude Bentley and Titus Lyons — and Pottsboro was back on the scoreboard with his 13-yard scoring toss to Lyons, who totaled three catches for 46 yards. Jake Kubik led Pottsboro with 55 yards on three catches.

Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Pottsboro’s Silas Barr hit Fennegan from behind and forced a fumble that was recovered by Jackson Lipscomb. A pass interference penalty gave Pottsboro a first down at the Melissa 11-yard line and four plays later Plyler rolled to his right on fourth down and ran untouched in the end zone for another score.

Pottsboro forced a punt and had an opportunity to get within two scores but the drive fizzled at midfield.

Fennegan made a couple of big plays on a 70-yard drive before throwing another touchdown pass to Branch and a 44-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.

On their next drive, McBride swept to his left and raced upfield for a 44-yard gain to the Melissa 30-yard line but three plays later while scrambling to avoid a strong pass-rush, Plyler fumbled and Melissa recovered, effectively ending Pottsboro’s chances at a comeback.