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Panthers open in style

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

They kicked things off with a flourish.

The LaGrange College Panthers, hoping to get a new season started in style, dominated Birmingham-Southern in every aspect of the game on the way to an impressive 29-14 victory at Callaway Stadium on Saturday night.

The Panthers scored a touchdown on their second possession to take a lead they held the rest of the game.

LaGrange College led 29-7 before Birmingham-Southern scored a late touchdown to make the final score more respectable.

Earl Chambers, LaGrange College’s second-year head coach, felt the offseason conditioning program the players went through paid massive dividends.

“We put them through something really tough. It wasn’t easy,” Chambers said. “The guys that made it, they see the value in what we do. Our goal was to make our team tougher. To some degree, I think we’re getting close to where I want to be. I couldn’t be more proud of my guys. They played four quarters, something we haven’t done in a long time.”

The Panthers got it done with a balanced offense, with quarterback Shedrick Lindsey and running back Brendon Scott leading the way

Scott powered his way to 127 yards on 18 attempts and three touchdowns, and Lindsey completed 13-of-24 passes for 209 yards with zero interceptions.

LaGrange College’s defense was just as impressive.

Birmingham-Southern scored a touchdown early in the second quarter, but it didn’t find the end zone again until there was two minutes left in the game and the outcome had long since been decided.

Jamie Sellers, a sophomore defensive lineman from Callaway High, felt it all started on the line of scrimmage.

“We preached it all camp long. We’ve got to start up front,” said Sellers, who had five tackles. “The offensive lines and defensive lines, they set the tone for the game. As long as you win up front you’ll control the game. They preached that to us a lot. We trust each other.”

Saturday’s game was a marked contrast from what happened a year ago when Birmingham-Southern built a 34-7 lead before withstanding a late LaGrange College rally.

On Saturday, it was LaGrange College controlling things from the start, and it never let Birmingham-Southern get off the canvas after it got knocked down.

“That’s a great team. Give them credit,” Chambers said. “We knew they were going to come in, and we knew they were going to run the football, we knew they were going to take shots down the field. Last year, they just hit us in the mouth. We wanted to match their intensity.”

The Panthers took the lead when they went 73 yards in nine plays for a touchdown, with Scott scoring on a 9-yard run.

Later in the first quarter, the Panthers marched 61 yards in 10 plays, with Alex Rivera knocking through a 20-yard field goal.

Robert Shufford’s 35-yard touchdown run got Birmingham-Southern within three early in the second quarter.

It took LaGrange College one play to answer with a score of its own, with Scott racing 62 yards for the touchdown, and the lead was 16-7 following a failed two-point attempt.

With 2:32 left in the first half, Rivera’s 45-yard field goal capped a nine-play, 56-yard drive and gave LaGrange College a 19-7 lead, which was the score at the break.

The Panthers padded their lead on their first possession of the second half when they needed barely two minutes to go 93 yards in six plays.

The Panthers chewed up a bunch of those yards on a 65-yard completion from Lindsey to Jalen Trice, and Scott scored on a 9-yard run one play later, and the lead was 26-7.

In the fourth quarter, Rivera’s 37-yard field goal pushed the lead to 29-7, and Birmingham-Southern capped the scoring on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Mike Benning to Trevor Oakes.

The Panthers recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock.

While it was just the first game and there’s a long way to go, Chambers is happy with what he’s seen so far, and he believes the job the coaches did recruiting-wise is paying off.

“Credit to our coaches. They did an outstanding job,” Chambers said. “They went out and found the guys that fit the system, and I feel like if we get a couple of more classes like the one we got, we’ll be tough.”