Panthers begin USA South play

Published 2:02 pm Saturday, September 16, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – They’ve come up empty through the first two weeks of the season, but the LaGrange College Panthers and Methodist Monarchs are starting over today.

LaGrange College, which fell to 0-2 with last week’s loss to Berry, will be in North Carolina today to take on Methodist (0-2) in the USA South opener for both teams.

It will be the first of seven conference games for the Panthers, who would earn an invitation to the NCAA Division III playoffs if they win the USA South title.

While LaGrange College and Methodist are both winless, their stories are drastically different.

LaGrange College has been competitive in both of its games, and it lost to Birmingham Southern 29-25 in the opener before falling to Berry College 28-14 last week.

Methodist has been blown out in both of its games, losing to Campbell 70-0 in its opener before falling to Guilford 56-17 last week.

Last week, LaGrange College scored a third-quarter touchdown to pull even, but Berry scored the game’s final 14 points to earn the home win.

“We’re not where we want to be but we are definitely moving in the right direction,” LaGrange College head coach Steve Pardue said following the Berry game. “I thought we got so much better from week one to week two. You’re not happy when you lose but I’m proud of our effort and proud of the direction we’re heading. This was a pretty physical game and we have to get ready for conference starting (today).”

As has been the case since 2015, Connor Blair will be the man at quarterback for the Panthers.

While the Panthers aren’t putting the ball in the air as much as they did under previous head coach Matt Mumme, Blair has still thrown 69 passes, and he has completed 43 of them for 481 yards with three touchdowns.

Blair needs 486 more yards to set the school’s career record for passing yards.

Marcus Campbell has been Blair’s favorite target with 13 catches for 176 yards, and David Apiag, Brendan Thomas and Juwan Brown each have scoring receptions.

Nicholas Searcy headlines LaGrange College’s rushing attack with 113 yards on 33 attempts with a touchdown, and Scott has run for 63 yards.

On defense, senior linebacker Fabian Ryan is having a big season with 16 tackles, including 13 solo stops, and he has forced a fumble.

Defensive back Jamal Shakir and defensive lineman Khary Paige both have eight tackles, and linebacker Rayshaun Bagsby has seven.

Defensive lineman Demetrius Rodgers has six tackles.

For Methodist, quarterback Steve Keoni has completed 18-of-53 passes for 191 yards with two touchdowns, and running back E’Montie Dears has 105 yards on 35 carries.


WHO: LaGrange College (0-2) vs. Methodist (0-2)

WHEN: Today, 1 p.m.

WHERE: Fayetteville, N.C.

LAST YEAR: Methodist beat LaGrange College 43-26

CONFERENCE TIME: This will be the first of seven USA South games for LaGrange College and Methodist.