As Woodville head coach Tyler Vann watched his team energetically go through their pregame routine, he began to feel even better about the Panthers’ chances Friday night.

“We had (three starters) back , and it was the first time since the injuries hit us that we’d had that kind of energy in pregame,” Vann said. “I knew then we were going to be all right.”

Woodville (3-5, 3-2) built an 18-point halftime lead and went on for a playoff berth-clinching 38-20 victory at Gaylesville Friday night. 

It’s the Panthers’ fifth playoff appearance in six seasons and the first for Woodville under Vann.

“Really proud of our guys,” Vann said. “They came out and set the tone early. We had Carlos (Torres), Brice (Thompson) and Easton (Parker) all back (from injury) and that seemed to just give our guys an extra step. We had the best week practice we’ve had and it showed.”

Woodville jumped out to an 8-6 lead after one quarter and was in front 16-6 when Torres recovered a Gaylesville fumble, leading to another Panther score just before halftime for a 24-6 lead. Gaylesville (4-5, 2-4) pulled within 24-12 early in the third quarter and was driving to make it a one score game when Thompson’s interception thwarted the drive. The Panthers scored on their ensuing possession and were never really threatened again.

“That was a huge turning point in the game,” Vann said. “We got the momentum back.”

Jackson Peek had another big night for the Panthers, rushing for 217 yards and four touchdowns while passing for 76 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Cam Talley, who ran for 77 yards. Torres had a 53-yard reception. 

Defensively, Thompson had four tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery for Woodville while Peek and Torres both had fumble recoveries.

Woodville can clinch the region’s No. 3 seed with a win over Appalachian at home next week or a Sumiton Christian loss to region champion Valley Head. If Woodville loses and Sumiton Christian wins, Woodville would be the No. 4 seed. 

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