Panthers fall to state rival
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was anyone’s game.
When DJ Owens hauled in a 54-yard touchdown pass from Kelly Hall, the LaGrange College Panthers found themselves trailing by six points against the nationally-ranked Berry College Vikings.
Unfortunately for the home-standing Panthers, that’s as close as they would come the rest of the way.
LaGrange College got the ball pack with an opportunity to seize the lead with a touchdown, but Berry’s A.M. Harris picked off a Hall pass near midfield.
The Vikings scored four plays later to go up by 13, and they held on for a 34-21 victory on a steamy Saturday evening at Callaway Stadium where it was 90 degrees at kickoff.
LaGrange College, which lost a close one to Birmingham Southern in its opener, fell to 0-2, while Berry College improved to 2-0 while winning for the fourth consecutive time in the series.
The Panthers lost Saturday’s game despite a monster effort from Hall, who has taken over at quarterback after transferring from Averett University.
The Huntersville, N.C. native repeatedly showed off his ability to complete passes while on the move, and he was 33-of-45 for 402 yards with two touchdowns.
Hall’s final touchdown pass came moments after the Panthers converted a fake-punt attempt on fourth-and-22 deep in their own territory.
Punter Tristan McCann tossed a shovel pass to Brendon Scott, who raced 24 yards for the first down.
On the next play, Owens streaked down the sideline and beat his defender, and Hall dropped the ball into his hands for the 54-yard touchdown.
Alex Rivera made the extra point, and Berry’s lead was 27-21 with 14:05 to play.
The defense stood firm and forced a punt on Berry’s ensuing possession, and LaGrange College took over at its own 29-yard line with more than 12 minutes to play.
The Vikings needed a big defensive play to steal momentum back, and they got it.
On third down, Hall dropped back and threw the ball in the middle of the field, and Harris made a leaping interception to give the Vikings the ball.
Four plays later, Tate Adcock threw a perfect spiral to Mason Kinsey, who made the catch in the back of the end zone for the touchdown, and Berry’s lead was 13 points with less than 10 minutes to play.
The Panthers made it into Vikings’ territory after the kickoff, but the drive stalled and they had to punt.
Berry promptly ran more than three minutes off the clock before losing a fumble on the LaGrange College 11-yard line with 1:23 remaining.
The Panthers made it to their own 46-yard line before Mark Sommerville picked off a pass.
The Vikings ran one kneel-down play and the clock ran out.
The Vikings were threatening to blow the game open early on after they scored touchdowns on their first two possessions to build a 13-0 lead.
Adcock put the Vikings on the board with a 31-yard scoring pass to Joey Connors, and he tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Michael Luckie on the next possession.
The Panthers, spurred on by their fans on the home side of the stadium, surged back for two touchdowns of their own to take the lead.
Following Berry’s second touchdown, LaGrange College drove 65 yards in seven plays, and Austin Sapp capped the drive with a 22-yard scoring catch from Hall.
After a Berry punt, LaGrange College churned out a 77-yard, 13-play drive that ended with a La’Kel Hood 1-yard touchdown run.
Rivera’s extra point gave the Panthers a 14-13 lead with 9:06 left in the half.
The Vikings reclaimed the lead on a 6-yard scoring pass from Adcock to Kinsey, and the Panthers trailed 20-14 with less than a minute left in the half.
The Vikings got a chance to pad their lead when they recovered a fumble at the Panthers’ 42-yard line, but they missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Tanner Feeney had a big third-down sack on first down that knocked the Vikings back seven yards and forced a longer field-goal attempt.
On their third possession of the third quarter, the Panthers had the ball inside their own 10-yard line when Hall completed a pass to Sapp.
Sapp was fighting for extra yards when Kevin Grier forced the ball loose, and the Vikings recovered the fumble at the Panthers 32-yard line.
The Vikings quickly turned that break into points, with Mason Kinsey ripping off a 32-yard touchdown run to give the visiting team a 27-14 lead.
The Panthers made things interesting with their touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but it was the Vikings exiting the turf with the hard-fought win.
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