ORLANDO — Vernon Hargreaves III was the first to come up a yard short of the end zone.
Then Chase Litton failed to cross the goal line. Next up was Keith Hopkins.
After all those fruitless — and scoreless — possessions, Wharton ran out of opportunities against the state’s top-ranked Class 8A team Friday night.
Litton threw for 371 yards and two touchdowns but also three interceptions, including two that Orlando Dr. Phillips quickly turned into scores, and the Wildcats were unable to overcome their goal-line failures in a 28-15 loss in the region quarterfinals.
“We just didn’t get the job done,” Wharton coach David Mitchell said. “I call it the green zone and not the red zone because that’s where you’ve got to cash in. And we didn’t do it tonight.”
Wharton (8-3) dominated between the end zones, outgaining the Panthers 394-262, holding them to five first downs and controlling the pace of the game.
The performance was almost a total reversal of the Wildcats’ season-ending 35-14 loss to Dr. Phillips at Bill Spoone Stadium last fall.
But the Panthers (11-0) did just enough.
Dr. Phillips held Wharton to only a field goal on four trips inside their 5-yard line, forced five turnovers, sustained relentless pressure on Litton and wore down the depleted Wildcats.
“We had our backs against the wall,” said Panthers defensive lineman Obas Kenderson, who had three sacks and forced a fumble.
“But we just kept coming up big. That was the difference in the game.”
Dr. Phillips will host Plant in the region semifinals next Friday.
Earlier in the week, Wharton linebacker Rocky Enos, the team’s leading tackler, said the Wildcats seemed intimidated by the atmosphere at Dr. Phillips last November.
Not this time.
Litton, who came in averaging a Hillsborough-best 233 yards passing a game, threw for a season high in yards against a defense boasting a handful of major-college prospects.
But two of his interceptions provided enough spark for a Dr. Phillips offense that struggled.
Litton threw an interception to safety Matt Milano on his first attempt. Two plays later, Panthers tailback Eric Harrell scored on a 5-yard run for a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Milano’s second interception of Litton came early in the third quarter. On the next play, Dr. Phillips quarterback Alton Meeks completed a pass to Roderick Proctor, who slipped a tackle and raced in for a 42-yard score and a 14-3 lead.
“We went up and down the field on these guys,” Mitchell said. “But we just did some things you can’t do.”
Hargreaves, a Florida commit in his last game for the Wildcats, twice failed to score on direct snaps inside the 4 midway through the first quarter.
It happened again, to the 6-foot-6 Litton, on fourth and goal from the 1 late in the second quarter.
Before the end of the half, the Wildcats faked a 38-yard field goal attempt and Keith Hopkins zig-zagged across the field before being pushed out of bounds inches short of the end zone.