GREENSBORO, N.C. – Playing a game a few days early wasn’t an issue for the LaGrange College Panthers.
LaGrange College was supposed to play at Greensboro (N.C.) today, but because of possible complications caused by Hurricane Matthew, the game was moved to Thursday.
After a high-scoring first half where the two teams combined for 53 points, LaGrange College’s defense tossed a shutout in the second half on the way to a 35-26 victory.
It was a big bounce-back win for LaGrange College, which was coming off last week’s overtime 65-62 loss to Averett.
LaGrange College (3-2 overall) improved to 1-1 in the USA South heading into next week’s showdown with rival Huntingdon.
“I was proud of our team adjusting quickly to a short week. With quite a few injuries many young guys had to step up and they did,” LaGrange College head coach Matt Mumme. “Now our attention will turn in the short time to all our players and coaches that have family that will be affected by Hurricane Matthew. This weekend we will be preparing for the big rivalry game against Huntingdon.”
LaGrange College quarterback Connor Blair, coming off his second USA South player of the week honor, continued to put up huge numbers.
Blair completed 30-of-43 passes for 337 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and senior Marsalis Jackson was his favorite target with seven catches for 141 yards (a 20-yard average) with two touchdowns.
Lavelle Meeks added five catches for 50 yards with a touchdown, and running back Jamarkis Holmes had three catches out of the backfield, and one of them went for a touchdown.
Once again Blair was spreading the ball around, with 10 different players catching passes.
The Panthers didn’t do a whole lot on the ground, but Alex Scott had a 3-yard touchdown run less than 20 seconds into the game after Josh Hardrick returned the opening kickoff 71 yards.
LaGrange College was limited to seven points in the second half, but that was enough thanks to a stingy performance by the defense.
Greensboro scored four touchdowns in the first half, but it didn’t find the end zone in the final two quarters, even though it drove into LaGrange College territory three times.
Defensive lineman Demetrius Rodgers had three tackles for a loss, including one on fourth down that ended a Greensboro drive in the fourth quarter.
Quentin Dixon led the Panthers with 13 tackles, Fabian Ryan added 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, and defensive backs Jordan Daniels and Brandon Penn had six and five tackles, respectively.
The Panthers started quickly.
One play after Hardrick’s kickoff return, Scott’s touchdown run and the first of Zachary Kudwa’s five extra points put the Panthers on top 7-0.
That was the start of a high-scoring first half, with both teams chewing up huge chunks of yardage.
Greensboro answered LaGrange College’s touchdown with two of its own.
On fourth-and-goal from the one, Greensboro’s Meleck Thornton scored on a 1-yard run to cap an 11-play, 63-yard drive.
After LaGrange College went three-and-out, Blair had a 59-yard punt that pinned Greensboro back on its own 4-yard line.
Greensboro promptly went 96 yards in 20 plays, and Quentin Chavis capped that marathon drive that lasted more than 10 minutes with a 1-yard scoring run.
The extra-point attempt failed, and Greensboro led 13-7.
Back came the Panthers, who showed off their big-play ability.
On a third-down play, Blair tossed a 51-yard scoring pass to Jackson, and the extra point put the Panthers on top 14-13.
Greensboro went three-and-out, and a shanked punt gave LaGrange College the ball 29 yards from the end zone.
On third-and-goal, Blair found Meeks for a 6-yard touchdown pass, and LaGrange College was up 21-13.
It took Greensboro one play to eat into the LaGrange College lead.
Herbert Bridges returned a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown, and after an unsuccessful two-point attempt, LaGrange College’s lead was 21-19.
The Panthers responded with a nine-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 5-yard scoring pass from Blair to Holmes.
Greensboro capped the first-half scoring with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Quentin Chavis to Demario Smith, and LaGrange College took a 28-26 lead to the half.
LaGrange College put together what turned out to be the lone scoring drive of the second half on its first possession of the third quarter.
Following a Greensboro punt, LaGrange College ate up 70 yards in 11 plays, and once again it was Blair hooking up with Jackson, this time for a 30-yard touchdown, and the lead was 35-26.
Greensboro moved the ball deep into LaGrange College territory on its final three possessions.
Early in the fourth quarter, Greensboro was on the LaGrange College 20-yard line when Chavis threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.
On Greensboro’s next possession, it had the ball at the LaGrange 18-yard line on fourth-and-one, and Rodgers tackled Thornton for a 4-yard loss.
On its final possession, Greensboro had a fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line, but a Chavis pass attempt fell incomplete.
Blair ran two kneel-down plays, and that was that.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports