A week ago, the LaGrange College Panthers suffered a devastating home loss to Methodist.
Holding a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers ended up losing 26-23 in overtime, a loss that knocked them out of a first-place tie in the USA South conference.
As difficult as that loss was, though, the Panthers didn’t have a whole of time to reflect on it, not with another big game on the horizon.
Today in Virginia, LaGrange College (3-5, 3-2 in conference play) will take on a Ferrum (6-2, 4-1) team that is tied with Christopher Newport for the conference lead.
The Panthers still have a chance to win the conference title, but they have to win today to keep that chance alive.
“Saturday was tough. That was a tough loss for everybody,” LaGrange College head coach Todd Mooney said. “We sat down Sunday night and talked about it. You have to get back to work. You have to learn from what went wrong. You have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. And you have to play the game the way it’s meant to be played. That’s the only way you can do it.”
The Panthers had a 20-10 lead through three quarters, but the Monarchs scored 10 points in the final three minutes of regulation to tie it and force overtime.
Cody Ausherman made a 45-yard field goal as time expired to tie it.
After the Panthers’ overtime possession ended with a missed field goal, Methodist won it with an Ausherman field goal
“It cuts pretty deep. It still hurts,” LaGrange College senior wide receiver R.J. Miles said. “But you let it go, and it’s to the next we go. You can’t be thinking about the past.”
The Panthers’ title hopes haven’t been extinguished.
Ferrum and Christopher Newport are tied for the conference lead with 4-1 records, and LaGrange College and Maryville are in second at 3-2.
The good news for the Panthers is they’ve already beaten Christopher Newport and Maryville.
So if the Panthers win their final two games, and Christopher Newport loses one of its last two games, they would be conference champions because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“Had we won Saturday, we’d be in a different position right now,” Mooney said. “But the rest of our season would not have changed. We still have to win.”
Ferrum presents a difficult challenge.
Ferrum, which also uses the Panthers nickname, lost to Christopher Newport on Oct. 6, but it has won three straight conference games since then, including last week’s 35-12 win over Greensboro.
Ferrum runs an option offense, and quarterback Tim Reynolds had 108 yards with two touchdowns last week.
Reynolds also had a big day passing the ball, completing 15-of-21 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Dealing with Ferrum’s option offense will be a key for the Panthers, according to Mooney.
“They present an offense that is difficult,” Mooney said. “As good as you play (defensively), sometimes things can happen. There’s got to be a resiliency with that type of an offense, because from time to time something’s going to break.”
For the Panthers on offense, Mooney said the team needs to do a better job of finishing off drives.
Last week against Methodist, the Panthers made it inside the 10-yard line twice in the third quarter, but they had to settle for field goals both times.
“We have to go out and execute and come away with seven instead of three,” Mooney said. “We’re facing a very talented and a very aggressive and physical and very fast defense.”
Mooney believes his team is prepared to come out today and hang tough with a talented Ferrum team and hopefully come away with a big conference win.
“You have to rally the troops and get back to work (after a tough loss),” Mooney said. “And I really believe that our team resiliency matches the need for what we have to do there.”