Panthers shine on senior day
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They went out as winners.
The LaGrange College Panthers outlasted Methodist 48-38 on Saturday afternoon, giving the team’s seniors a victory in their final game at Callaway Stadium.
Before the game, the 10 seniors were recognized during a ceremony on the field, and the Panthers then went out and enjoyed their best offensive effort of the season to improve to 3-6 overall, and 2-4 in the USA South.
First-year head coach Earl Chambers, who has been on the staff since 2014, is grateful to the commitment the seniors have shown.
“That class came in with about 85 players that were on the team that year,” Chambers said. “It’s tough to be a senior in Division III. A lot of guys come in, but to keep them here, that’s hard to do.”
One of those seniors, wide receiver Marcus Campbell, made the most of his last game on the turf of Callaway Stadium.
Campbell, one of the most productive receivers in the history of the program, had seven receptions for 122 yards and three touchdowns.
Another senior, Austin Sapp, had one touchdown catch, as did junior Alex Scott, who has made the transition from quarterback to receiver.
Sophomore Caleb Speir, who has settled in as the starting quarterback, had his best game as a college player, completing 26-of-32 passes for 355 yards with four touchdowns.
“He started three games ago, and he hasn’t done nothing but get better and better,” Chambers said. “When we sat down and looked at all of our quarterbacks, I told coach Felton (Huggins), just pick the one you feel like gives us the chance to win. And he was the guy.”
Senior quarterback Jonathan Slade, a four-year member of the program, threw his first career touchdown pass, and James Monroe had two scoring runs.
Defensively, while the Panthers surrendered nearly 600 total yards, they held the Monarchs to 10 points in the second half.
After dropping some hard-fought games this season, the Panthers were happy to be on the winning side of things, and they’ll try to end the season with a winning streak by beating the Huntingdon Hawks on Saturday.
“It was good to get a win, especially because we’ve had so many close games,” Chambers said. “It was good for our fans, and good for our parents.”
LaGrange College was coming off a 38-34 loss to Brevard where it surrendered a touchdown with 19 seconds left in the game.
The week before that, LaGrange College had the lead at the half before losing to Maryville 37-17.
“We’ve got to learn how to win,” Chambers said. “Last week, we had a chance to win. Maryville, we were leading at the half and we had a chance to win. So we’ve got to mature, and we’ve got to understand situations.”
There wasn’t a whole lot of defense played early in Saturday’s game.
It was tied 21-21 after the first quarter as the two teams combined for six touchdowns, and the game was deadlocked 28-28 at the half.
The Panthers created some separation in the third quarter as they outscored the Monarchs 13-3 to build a 41-31 lead.
The Monarchs got within three with 9:45 left in the game, but the Panthers went on an 11-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by a Monroe 3-yard scoring run with four minutes to play.
Methodist’s hopes ended when LaGrange College’s Roy Pound made a leaping interception with less than three minutes to play.
Following Saturday’s game against rival Huntingdon, Chambers will turn his attention to the 2019 season.
Chambers, who was previously the defensive coordinator, is looking forward to having a full offseason as head coach.
Chambers was promoted to head coach shortly before the season after the resignation of Steve Pardue.
“I’ll be able to sit down and breathe and try to figure things out,” Chambers said. “I never had a chance. It was like, you’ve got the job, here you go.”