BELLS — After playing close games for the first month of the season, the Bells Panthers were able to get some breathing room for most of the fourth quarter in a 35-20 victory against the Leonard Tigers in the District 9-3A (II) opener.
The Panthers (2-3, 1-0) nearly had a pair of 200-yard rushers with all of their 445 yards coming on the ground. Bo Baker finished with 208 yards and a TD on 16 carries and Wrangler Priest was right behind with 25 carries for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
D.J. Brown had a big night as well and rushed for 202 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and also threw a TD pass to lead Leonard (2-3, 0-1).
The game was close through three quarters before Bells scored early in the fourth and came away with a pair of turnovers to seal the victory.
The Panthers opened the scoring when Priest scored on a 36-yard run.
But the Tigers answered when Brown connected with Ty Ashworth on a 40-yard scoring strike. Brown ran in the conversion to put Leonard ahead, 8-7, at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Baker got the scoring started with an 80-yard touchdown run.
Leonard was ready to match the score with a drive of its own. Brown ran to the one-yard line and Riley Ferron punched it in for the touchdown. The conversion run failed to keep the score tied at 14.
With 2:55 left in the half, Bells went back in front on Grady Waldrip's bulled in from the three and the Panthers held a 21-14 lead at the break.
Priest scored on a 24-yard run in the third quarter to give Bells a 28-14 advantage.
But Leonard quickly cut the deficit in half as Brown raced 55 yards to the end zone and the margin was back to a possession.
Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Blake Rolen capped a drive with a two-yard touchdown run and Bells was back up by two scores.
The margin stayed that way after Canyon Payne recovered a fumble and Tanner Carter came up with an interception to keep the Tigers comeback from taking place.