**ARTICLE BY JOSH LONGSTRETH**
The Alma Panthers and Shepherd Bluejays kicked off Week 1 at Alma High School. No stranger to each other, the two teams had another thriller Thursday night. This night would ultimately belong to the Bluejays. Alma had the advantage in 2021, but if you’re Shepherd, you couldn’t have drawn it up any better to start a season in 2022.
Alma was threatening to score in the first quarter before a Shepherd interception went 93 yards to paydirt to give the Bluejays an early 6-0 lead. Defense? Check. Shepherd would then punch it in from 2 yards out later in the first to give themselves a 14-0 lead after a successful two-point conversion. Offense? Check. Shepherd would take that lead into the half.
Alma came out and got right back in the game in the third quarter on a passing touchdown from Sam Rosales to Cade Sutherland, putting the score at 14-6 after a missed PAT. Later on in the third quarter, the Bluejays would give themselves a little more breathing room after a fumble return for a touchdown. This time the PAT was good, giving Shepherd a 21-6 lead heading into the fourth.
The Panthers then took a line from Lee Corso, a “Not so fast, my friend”, to get right back in this ballgame after a Carlos Martinez-Medina 1 yard touchdown run. Right after that, the Bluejays immediately answered with an 80 yard kickoff return touchdown to take back a 28-14 lead. Special teams? Check. This margin would be would be enough for the Bluejays to win in Week 1.
Shepherd avenges last year’s defeat to put them at 1-0 on the year. The Bluejays open Jack Pine Conference play next Thursday at home against the Meridian Mustangs. Alma continued to battle on Thursday night, but just came up short to kick off the season. They look to rebound next week where they will travel to Freeland to take on the Falcons.