Defensive stand lifts Panthers to big road win

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 27, 2015



SALEM, Va. – The LaGrange College Panthers won their first USA South game by coming through with a late defensive stand against Greensboro.

It was Marcus Valentine saving the day in that game with an interception deep in LaGrange College territory to secure a 27-25 win.

Two weeks later, LaGrange College was on the road against Ferrum (Va.), needing another big effort from the defense to bring home a conference victory.

Once again, the LaGrange College defense was up to the task.

Ferrum was trailing by three points when it had the ball inside the LaGrange College 5-yard line with less than 10 seconds remaining.

Ferrum’s talented quarterback, Troy Helton, took off running, and he attempted to make it out of bounds to stop the clock and perhaps set up a game-tying field-goal attempt.

Shaun Nichols didn’t let that happen.

The senior defensive lineman not only tackled Helton short of the goal line, but he made sure he stayed in bounds so the clock would keep ticking.

Ferrum, out of timeouts at that point, was unable to get another play off, and LaGrange College held on for a 27-24 victory.

The Panthers (2-4 overall) improved to 2-1 in the USA South.

“I was really proud of the way our team played for 60 minutes,” LaGrange College head coach Matt Mumme said. “Once again the defense did a tremendous job of slowing down Ferrum’s tough offense and (credit) to Shaun Nichols for making the play that sealed the win.”

It was a back-and-forth game.

LaGrange College took a 20-3 lead in the second half, but it fell behind in the fourth quarter before rallying for the win.

Marsalis Jackson provided the go-ahead touchdown on a 15-yard catch from quarterback Tyler Rowland, who was playing because of an injury to starter Connor Blair.

Jackson’s catch capped an 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive that erased a 24-20 deficit.

After the team’s traded punts, Ferrum took over at its own 39-yard line with 2:25 to play.

Ferrum had a first down at the Panthers’ 8-yard line, and Helton ran the ball three straight times from there, and on his final attempt he was stopped by Nichols.

Rowland, a freshman from Northgate High who was making his collegiate debut, played well for the Panthers, completing 16-of-23 passes for 146 yards with three touchdowns, and he didn’t throw any interceptions.

LaGrange College surged to a 14-3 lead at the half.

After Ferrum took the lead with a field goal in the first quarter, it was LaGrange College’s defense scoring the first touchdown of the game, with standout defensive lineman Demetrius Rodgers picking up a fumble and returning it 29 yards for the score.

Then with just 21 seconds left in the half, Rowland threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Joshua King, and Zack Kudwa’s second extra point gave the Panthers a 14-3 lead.

LaGrange College added to that lead in the third quarter when it went 48 yards in nine plays for the touchdown, with Rowland capping the drive with a 4-yard scoring pass to Josh Hardrick.

With Kudwa’s extra point, the Panthers led 20-3 with 11:48 to play in the third quarter.

Ferrum responded with three consecutive touchdowns to seize the lead.

Helton had touchdown runs of 12 and two yards, and Montel Lee returned a fumble 30 yards for the go-ahead score.

The Panthers answered with an impressive scoring drive to surge back ahead.

The Panthers converted three third-down plays on the drive.

On third-and-12, Rowland found Marcus Campbell for a 13-yard completion to the LaGrange College 46-yard line.

Three plays later on third-and-five, Mumme called for a running play, and Nick Searcy picked up eight yards for another first down.

Then on third-and-11, Rowland found running back Jamarkis Holmes for a 15-yard completion to the Ferrum 13-yard line.

After the first-down play lost two yards, Jackson made a diving catch on second down for the touchdown, and the Panthers had the lead once again, and this time they didn’t lose it.

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports