What had been a great run came to a disappointing end for a group of seniors who hadn’t seen a postseason game since they were freshmen.
The Panthers (6-5) played with heart and never gave up, trailing 25-10 early in the final quarter, before battling back with two-straight scores to give the Atom Smashers (5-6) a run for their money that came up just short at the end.
While Chapel HIll's season ends, Johnson moves on to the second round next Friday against Class AAA No. 1-ranked Thomson, which stayed undefeated with a 27-3 win over Jackson last night.
“I’m just proud of the kids,” Pastrick said. “Getting to the playoffs wasn’t good enough for them. I’m hurting for them more than I am for myself. I wish we could have done more and wish we could have stayed with this group more. We didn’t get it done tonight.”
Senior quarterback Brett Roberts put on a gutsy performance in the fourth quarter to give his team a chance. Roberts connected with John Chester-Owens on a six-yard touchdown pass with 6:43 left in the game and Danny Williams’ PAT got the Panthers within a score at 25-17.
Two minutes later, Roberts hit Jeremiah Bridges on a 63-yard pass to get within two at 25-23. Chapel Hill went for the tie, but the two-point conversion failed.
But Johnson tailback Corbin Mitchell, who had netted one-yard on five carries all night, put the game away on the Atom Smashers’ ensuing drive with a 44-yard touchdown run with 2:18 left in the game. Dushad Morris added the PAT to make it 32-23.
Chapel Hill got the ball back with 2:06 left, but Roberts was sacked for a nine-yard loss on third down by Johnson linebacker Reginald Thorpe and the drive ended with the Panthers turning the ball over on downs.
“We gave up too many big plays,” said Pastrick. “It’s something we talked about going in. We knew we had to limit them and weren’t able to and that ended up hurting us at the end.”
Atom Smashers senior quarterback Shyheim Roberts had his hands on Johnson’s other four scores. Shyheim Roberts threw for three touchdowns and added another on an eight-yard run midway through the third.
Shyheim Roberts hit his favorite receiver, 6-foot-3 junior Darrell Myers, for a 77-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game to put Johnson ahead 6-0. The Atom Smashers didn’t appear to have a kicking game, trying and failing on two-point conversions after their first three scores.
Chapel Hill tailback Tre Mitchell responded with a 32-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, but Shyheim Roberts added his second TD pass, this time to Rekwan Cooper, nine seconds after Mitchell’s TD and the Panthers trailed 12-7 at halftime.
Williams hit a 27-yard field goal on Chapel Hill’s opening drive of the second half to get within 12-10, only to watch Johnson’s Roberts put the Atom Smashers up by 15 on his TD run and another pass to Myers, this time from five yards out.
Tre Mitchell carried the ball 39 times for 251 yards and the one TD and Brett Roberts was 8-of-17 for 158 yards, two TD passes and two interceptions.
Shyheim Roberts was 16-of-21 passing for the Atom Smashers for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Myers had four receptions for 162 yards.