The Batesburg-Leesville Panthers took care of business last Friday in convincing fashion as they trounced the outmatched Predators of Fox Creek 55-13.
The Panthers improved to 5-4 overall and 3-1 in Region 2-AA with the win and have ensured that they will host a first-round playoff game on Nov. 8 at Panther Stadium. This week the Panthers will travel to Saluda to face the 7-2 Tigers in a pivotal regular season finale, as the two teams will battle for the Region 2-AA runner-up spot. Abbeville won the region with a 48-20 win over Saluda last week.
Shauntrell Hendrix gave B-L a 7-0 lead just 13 seconds into the game as he returned the opening kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown. Jackson Lorick added the point after.
The defense did their part and forced a three and out. That set up an 84-yard scoring drive that took 10 plays before Amah-Dre Leaphart, who had missed the previous two games, scored from 6 yards out to make it 14-0 with 5:50 to play in the first quarter.
Again the defense would set up the offense, this time as Vernard Ramage recovered a fumble at the 48-yard line. Three plays later, Tre Robinson found Damazhay Long for a 22-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers would add two more points as Keshoun Williams had to scramble after a low snap on the point-after and found Hendrix for the conversion to make it 22-0 with 4:30 to play in the first quarter.
The Predators would final get their offense in gear as they went 56 yards in nine plays with Ryan Chavous scoring from 3 yards out. The extra point was wide right, and B-L led 22-6 with 50.2 seconds to play in the quarter.
B-L would answer with a fourth straight scoring drive, this time going 80 yards in 13 plays with a scrambling Robinson finding Lorick in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown. Leaphart did plenty of work on the drive with 51 yards on six carries as B-L went on top 29-6 with 7:53 to play in the second quarter.
The B-L defense would force another punt, and this time the punter angled the kick towards the home sideline. As it bounced a few times, Williams finally scooped it up, picked up a few blocks as he started down the sideline, then cut to the middle of the field and raced 78 yards for the Panthers first punt return for a touchdown in two years. The Lorick kick made it 36-6 as B-L had scored on their first five possessions.
B-L would eventually have a punt late in the first half, but Williams would send the Panthers to the half with the 36-6 lead as he intercepted a Predators pass at the 5-yard line to end a threat.
On the Predators’ opening possession of the second half, Williams picked off his second pass of the night, this time at the 42-yard line. B-L would them march 42 yards in eight plays, with Robinson scoring on a 2-yard run. Leaphart tallied 28 yards on four carries on the drive. The kick made it 43-6 with 9:16 in the third quarter.
After the defense forced a turnover on downs, the offense again scored, this time going 89 yards in just five plays as Leaphart broke off runs of 37 and 29 yards to move the ball down the field. Williams scored his second touchdown of the night as he took an end around 16 yards for a score to make it 49-6 with 4:06 to play in the quarter. The kick was wide left.
Williams, who was celebrating his birthday, finished the night with two touchdowns and two interceptions after being named to the North-South All-Star game earlier in the week.
Fox Creek would strike quick on the next series as Jadon Johnson connected with Jantonious Butler for a 65-yard touchdown. The extra point made it 49-13 with 3:34 to play in the quarter.
B-L would again come right back, going 52 yards in four plays with Leaphart scoring from a yard out. On the previous play, it looked like Robinson might score on a long run but was knocked out of bounds at the one after a 39-yard run. The extra point was no good, and B-L led 55-13 with 1:30 to play in the third quarter.
With a running clock and plenty of substitutes on both sides, that would prove to be the final score of the night. Fox Creek, thanks in part to 135 yards in the fourth quarter, finished the night with 414 yards of offense to B-L’s 394, although B-L did manage 170 yards of returns, including two touchdowns.
Story by Jay Hendrix / Published October 26, 2019