Merryville put up points late to pull close but could not catch up to Hamilton Christian.

The Panthers will have to wait and see if they make the playoffs after falling 42-35 to Warriors Friday night on the road.

"Our defense came alive in the second half," Merryville head coach Randy Jones said. "It was probably the best four quarter, offensively and defensively, that we've played. The third quarter wasn't as good as we wanted it to be. After halftime, our defense came out and stopped them, but our offense couldn't get clicking. I really feel like our defense woke up a little bit."

Merryville trailed 42-19 at the end of the third quarter, but Merryville did not go away quietly.

Panther running back Lane Hamilton broke off a 32-yard touchdown, and Cam'ron Williams added the two-point conversion to make it 42-27.

Merryville got the ball back and quarterback Blaise Duncan made it 42-35 after a 2-yard touchdown run.

Hamilton Christian converted on a late fourth-and-1 to keep the clock and chains moving to seal the win.

"I feel like we compete, but sometimes just don't get over the hump and win," Jones said. "We're very competitive but just haven't figured out how to win a game. There's not better time than now with the playoffs starting."

Williams led Merryville with 215 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries, and Hamilton added 82 yards on 19 carries. 

"We changed an offensive set so we can move them around a little more to keep people guessing a little bit," Jones said. "Lane struggled early to find the crease, and we talked to him about that. We visited it in practice, and he finally has got to where he can find that crease and exploded into it. That's huge for him because he's faster than what people expect him to be."

The Panthers were at No. 22 in the Power Rankings last week, and the LHSAA changed the format this summer, allowing just the top 24 in Class 1A to qualify for the playoffs.

"I told the kids that our plan is to practice on Monday and be ready to go play a game," Jones said. "Everybody is even. You just have to win a few games.

"If our defense plays the way it did in the second half with tackling better, our offense will be able to move it on people."