For three quarters Thursday, the Paradise Panthers held the lead and appeared to be on their way to their first victory of the season.
It all fell apart early in the fourth quarter, as the Leonard Tigers (2-1) exploded for 27 points and Paradise (0-3) lost their third straight, 34-19, at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex in Denton.
“We took a big step forward and got better tonight,” head coach Scott Broussard said. “We played a good football team and we played well in the first half.
“We played OK in the second half, but their speed got to us a little bit.”
The Panthers came out firing on all cylinders to open the game. After holding Leonard on a three-and-out to start the contest, Paradise scored quickly.
Facing third and 12 from their own 45 yard line, new starting quarterback Dillon Meadows found Cody Carmicheal down the left sideline for a 55-yard touchdown. The score gave the Panthers an early 6-0 lead.
Meadows replaced Tanner Valentine this week as Paradise’s starting quarterback. Broussard was happy with the result, as Meadows ended the night with 207 passing yards and three touchdowns.
“It went well,” Broussard said of Meadows’ debut. “Tanner [Valentine] ran the ball well at tailback and Dillon threw the ball well for the first night starting there.
“We wanted to help our offense and open it up a little bit.”
Paradise got another three-and-out stop and the offense immediately struck again.
This time Meadows found Jarrett Holt in the corner of the end zone. After another failed PAT, Paradise took a 12-0 lead to the second quarter.
Neither team could cross the goal line in the second frame, and Paradise enjoyed a two-score lead at halftime.
Late in the third quarter, the Tigers finally put together a drive starting at their own 19. Ten plays later they capped off their first scoring drive with a 12-yard touchdown run by Solomon Titus.
After that initial touchdown, Leonard was not stopped again. They crossed the goal line on their next four possessions to put the game away.
“We wore down in the end and they attacked our outside a little bit,” Broussard said. “They were fast and once they got outside we lost contain on them,”
Paradise added one more touchdown late in the fourth to get the game back within one possession when Meadows hit John Bridgeman from 20 yards out. Holt’s extra point got the Panthers within 27-19, but an on-side kick failed and Leonard kept control, scoring again to put the game away with just over a minute left.
“They took away some of our running game in the second half, and we just didn’t make plays when we had opportunities,” said Broussard. “We just have to figure out how to get over that hump and get a win.”
Paradise plays at home for the first time this season next week when they host Krum for homecoming.
LEONARD 34, PARADISE 19
Leonard … 0 … 0 … 7 … … 27 … – … 34
Paradise … 12 … 0 … 0 … … 7 … – … 6
Paradise – Dillon Meadows 55 pass to Cody Carmichael; pass failed
Paradise – Meadows 5 pass to Jarret Holt; run failed
Leonard – Solomon Titus 12 run; Ty McKinney kick
Leonard – Justin Bennett 4 run; McKinney run failed
Leonard – Dylan Monk 2 run; McKinney kick
Leonard – Ryan Nixon 2 run; McKinney kick
Paradise – Meadows 20 pass to John Bridgeman; Holt kick
Leonard – Monk 5 run; McKinney kick …
PARADISE … LEONARD
First Downs … 17 … 16
Rushes Yards … 30-113 … 43-389
Passing Yards … 207 … 71
Total Yards … 320 … 460
Comp-Att-Int … 17-30-0 … 4-12-0
Punts … 4-36 … 2-29
Fumbles lost … 2-2 … 0-0
Penalties … 6-35 … 10-85
Rushing – Paradise, Taylor Edwards 14-80. Leonard, Solomon Titus 21-187
Receiving – Paradise, Jarret Holt 7-80. Leonard, Ty McKinney 2-51
Passing – Paradise, Dillon Meadows 17-30-204. Leonard, Justin Bennett 4-12-71