The LaGrange College Panthers had hoped to head into their regular-season finale with a chance to win a conference championship.
That isn’t going to happen.
The Panthers (4-5) do have an opportunity to close the season with back-to-back wins, though, and finish with a record of .500 or better for the third time in their eight-year history.
The Panthers went 9-2 in 2008, and they were 5-5 the following season.
After back-to-back close losses by a combined five points that ended their title hoes, the Panthers used a dominant defensive effort to win 10-3 at Ferrum (Va.) last week.
Today, LaGrange College will be in Virginia again to take on Averett.
If the Panthers win, they’ll not only finish at 5-5, but they’ll post a 5-3 record in the USA South.
Averett (1-8) has had a difficult season, and it is winless in six conference games.
The Cougars are only averaging 17 points per game, and they’re allowing 37 points per game.
The Panthers, meanwhile, have flipped the script the past few weeks.
For most of the season, the Panthers were getting it done with a powerful offense led by junior quarterback Graham Craig, and the defense was struggling.
The past two weeks, though, it’s been all about the Panthers’ defense.
After three straight weeks of giving up 40 points or more, the Panthers held Christopher Newport to 13 points, but they only scored 10 themselves in a 13-10 loss.
Last week, the Panthers held an opponent without a touchdown for the first time since 2008 in the 10-3 win.
In today’s game, the Panthers hope to continue to get it done on defense, while rediscovering the high-powered offense that allowed them to average nearly 40 points through the first eight games.
Even after scoring just 20 points the past two weeks, the Panthers are still averaging 32 points a game.
Craig, who has started all nine games this season and has taken nearly every snap at quarterback, is wrapping up a sensational season.
Craig is averaging 360 yards per game while completing more than 61 percent of his passes, and he has thrown 29 touchdowns, an average of better than three per game.
Craig is leading NCAA Division III with 3,243 passing yards, and he is third in the country with 29 touchdowns.
Craig’s favorite target has been junior Griffin Roelle, who has a team-high 53 catches, and he’s second on the team with nine touchdowns.
Ervens Oge has 49 catches, and Marsalis Jackson is next with 41 catches, and he’s tops on the team with 11 touchdowns.
Jackson is averaging 20 yards per catch.
Senior Marquius Young is the leading rusher with 351 yards, and Shaqualm McCoy has 335 yards and a team-best five touchdowns.
Defensively, senior Andre Carter is finishing his sensational collegiate career with a fantastic season.
Carter has 96 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, and he is going to lead the team in tackles for the third straight year.
Freshman linebacker Jordan Chambers has also had a big year with 72 tackles, with 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and defensive backs Scott Chewning and Jordan Daniels each has 41 tackles.
With his eight-tackle performance last week, Chambers was named the USA South defensive rookie of the week for the second time.
Freshman defensive back Brandon Penn leads the team with four interceptions.
Carter is one of a handful of seniors who’ll be playing their final game today.
The other seniors are Cornelius Harper, Matt James, Tyler Johnson, Sean McNamee, Ed Russ and Young.