GARY | It's been a bumpy ride for the Roosevelt Panthers this season.
Just hours before Friday's kickoff in the first round of sectional play, coach Jeff Karras was dismissed from the team for unspecified reasons.
The controversial coach and his team were blitzed by West Side in the final week of the regular season 51-0.
West Side will travel to Highland next Friday for a shot at the sectional title game.
The Cougars did it again, but this time they sent the Panthers packing, as they pounded Roosevelt 54-12 in their Class 4A Sectional 9 opener on Friday night.
The first half was the Ramone Atkins to JonVea Johnson show for West Side (6-4), as the dynamic duo connected for three touchdown passes of 4, 42, and 73, respectively.
Atkins finished with 269 passing yards and six TDs on the night, while Johnson caught six passes for 183 yards and the three aforementioned scores.
"He (Atkins) is a talented kid with plenty of good targets to throw to," West Side coach Jason Johnson said.
Roosevelt (3-7) was able to chip into the lead thanks to a Jerry Ruiz to Sherman Brown 9-yard passing score.
After an 8-yard strike to Curtis Lee for Atkins' fourth TD pass of the night, to makes things worse for the Panthers, a 32-yard scoring run by Jerry Ruiz was negated because of a false start penalty.
But Ruiz persevered, driving the Panthers into the redzone and eventually scoring from five yards out, cutting the Cougar lead to 26-12 with 3:03 in the third.
Just 40 seconds later, Lonnie Johnson hauled in Atkins' fifth TD of the night on a 33-yard score.
Atkins didn't think the Karras dismissal affected the Panthers' play, despite the lopsided loss.
"I don't think it affected them at all," he said. "They played harder."
Roosevelt's Jerry Ruiz, who ran for 168 yards on 23 carries and a TD, said the opposite.
"It did have an effect on us because he was a good coach, but we just didn't overcome it," he said.