Lost opportunities for Panthers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They had their chances.
Three times during Saturday’s homecoming test against the Maryville Scots, the LaGrange College Panthers had the ball inside the 5-yard line.
The Panthers came up empty on each of those occasions, though, and that’s a big reason why they lost to the Scots 37-17 at Callaway Stadium.
Those three trips deep into Maryville territory ended with a turnover, a missed field goal, and a failed fourth-down conversion attempt.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers were trailing 24-9 and in desperate need of a touchdown.
LaGrange College was facing a fourth-and-goal situation from the 2-yard line when running back Drew Lewiski was stopped just short of the goal line.
Maryville then went 99 yards in 10 plays for the game-clinching touchdown, putting LaGrange College in a 30-9 hole with a little more than six minutes to play.
The Panthers’ first missed opportunity in the shadow of the Scots’ goal line came late in the first half when they were leading 9-7.
After a 48-yard completion from Caleb Speir to Tyler Benjamin, the Panthers had the ball on the 6-yard line with nearly 30 seconds left in the half. Speir attempted to spike the ball, but it fell out of his hand, and the Scots got the recovery.
Early in the second half, the Panthers had another opportunity to put points on the board.
Brandon Ray forced a fumble, and Nick Searcy scooped the ball up and rumbled to the Maryville 5-yard line.
The Panthers lost 10 yards on their next three plays, and Alex Rivera’s field-goal attempt was blocked.
So on back-to-back possessions the Panthers had the ball on the Scots’ 5-yard line, and they came up empty both times.
After the blocked field-goal attempt, the Scots took control, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to build a 21-9 lead with a little more than three minutes to play in the third quarter.
The lead grew to 24-9 moments into the fourth quarter on an Ian Hubbs field goal, and the Panthers drove from their own 30-yard line to the Scots’ 2-yard line before turning it over on downs.
Back-to-back touchdowns gave Maryville a 37-9 lead, and LaGrange College capped the scoring on a 17-yard scoring pass from Speir to DJ Owens with 1:10 to play.
The Panthers were ahead 3-0 on a Rivera field goal late in the first quarter, and Elijah Chenier’s 60-yard scoring run gave the Scots a 7-3 lead with 13:46 left in the opening half.
The Panthers needed 63 seconds to reclaim the lead, with Austin Sapp making a diving 42-yard catch from Speir for the touchdowns.
The extra-point attempt was blocked, and LaGrange College led 9-7, which was the score at the half.
Speir completed 18-of-29 passes for 269 yards with touchdown passes to Sapp and Owens.
Benjamin, Sapp and Marcus Campbell each had four catches, and David Apiag had 30 rushing yards on two carries to lead the ground attack.
Searcy had eight tackles, and Ray had eight tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
LaGrange College fell to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the USA South, and it will visit Brevard (N.C.) on Saturday.
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