UNION GROVE — Turnovers had been the bane of Union Grove’s first two games to open the 2020 season. The Lions were benevolent to the tune of 11 turnovers in back-to-back losses against Chisum and Queen City.

Friday night, it was forced turnovers that lifted the Lions to a hard-fought 12-8 victory over the Alba-Golden Panthers before a homecoming audience at UG’s Glyn Johnston Stadium.

“We never have to worry about the fight in our kids. Their effort is always going to be there. We told them this week to just keep plugging and good things would happen,” said second-year Lion boss Scotty Laymance.

“If we could fixed our mistakes, we knew we’d be alright. Obviously the fruit of our labor paid off tonight. I’m excited that we can still fix some things and keep improving.”

Clinging to a most precarious 6-0 halftime lead, the Lion defense forced miscues on each of the first three Panther offensive possessions in the second half.

Grayson Barnett swiped a Blake Weissert pass on AG’s first drive of the third quarter. One play later, Chase Mead and Cannon Cowan teamed up for a 39-yard touchdown pass and a 12-0 UG lead with 10:10 to go in the period.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Lions moved 76 yards in seven plays on their first turn in the second frame. Mead highlighted the drive with a nifty 45-yard quarterback keep on third and 12.

Barnett took a toss pitch to the one and Mead finished things with a quarterback keep and a 6-0 advantage. The Lions were unable to convert the two-point try but had taken a 6-0 lead with 8:02 left in the half.

The Panthers leaned heavily on 6-4, 235 pound Morris Baker and he proved to be a load to handle for the Lion defense. Baker pulled in a 32-yard pass from Weissert on third and 10. Ryan Jackson took a counter 20 yards inside the Lion 10.

AG was unable to cash in as the halftime horn sounded following a bad snap resulting in a loss of six yards. The Panthers had exhausted all their timeouts and could only watch helplessly as the clock drained down.

Mead shadowed Baker down the sideline and picked off a Weissert pass intended for him on the ensuing possession following UG’s quick-strike TD.

Things got a little interesting when the Panthers finally found the pay zone less than a minute into the fourth quarter. Baker literally plowed his way across from four yards out and tacked on the two-point conversion.

The Lions needed to hold on essentially an entire quarter to achieve their first win of the year. It looked as if they’d put the final nail in the coffin when Mead gilded 22 yards with option keep. Austin Procell reeled in a 27-yard pass from Mead three plays later.

A fumbled snap resulted in AG’s Thai Peterson recovered and giving the Panthers life with still 7:41 to play in regulation.

The Panthers were turned away on downs when Weissert and Kason Trimble came up three yards short on fourth down after an outstanding stop by Lion Cooper Vestal.

It all came to a close when Cowan stretched out to pick a Weissert pass on fourth down as the clock clicked under a minute to play.

The Lions (1-2) are at Maud on Friday, while the Panthers (1-2) play host to Cumby.

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Follow George Whitley on Twitter: @GPigskinprof