By Michael V. Hannigan
The News Staff
The Malakoff Tigers, playing shorthanded, could not find an answer for Palestine Westwood’s Keke Hicks Friday night as the Panthers handed Malakoff its first loss of the season, 34-30.
Hicks rushed for 124 yards, passed for another 126, and scored all five Westwood touchdowns as he accounted for more than 80 percent of the Panthers’ offensive output for the night.
His final touchdown was a 21-yard scoring strike to Dra Ross with just 33 seconds left in the game to give the Panthers the win.
The loss drops the Tigers to 3-1 on the year. Westwood improved to 2-2.
While Hicks played great for Westwood, a subplot on the Malakoff sideline was the list of injured. The Tigers entered the game with four two-way starters out because of injury (Tate Taylor, Jesse Ochoa, Demontes Dowell, and Thomas Acol-Kekauoha), and lost starting linebacker and kicker Cesar Garcia early in the game.
For most of the game, the Tigers were able to overcome their injuries.
Sophomore Stephan Wolfe started his first game at quarterback for the varsity and was very efficient running the team. In the first half, he was 5-of-8 passing for 118 yards, and threw for one touchdown and ran for another.
Dariuhn Jackson was Wolfe’s main target, catching three passes for 100 yards and a 25-yard touchdown. He also ran for an 11-yard score.
Marcus Dowell shouldered the load at running back, picking up 97 yards on 21 carries and scoring twice.
The Tigers roared out to a 30-13 lead midway through the third quarter, but seemed to tire as the Panthers scored 21 unanswered points to finish the game.
The referees also seemed to tire in the fourth quarter, and had great difficulty administering the game. Multiple times, the head referee signaled one team for a penalty and then marched off yardage against the other team without explanation. The officials threw their flags 11 times in the final quarter, hitting Malakoff for 15-yard penalties five times.
Although the Malakoff defense struggled with Hicks, the Tiger defenders continued their ball-hawking trend by forcing the Panthers into two turnovers, fumbles recovered by Keonte Ross and Emanuel Gonzalez.
Special teams also got in on the turnover fun on the game’s opening kickoff when Philippe Ruiz recovered a loose ball.
Malakoff will be be home again next week, looking to get into the win column against Grand Saline. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.