WALLBURG — If Ledford football coach Chris Adams was worried about his team’s psyche after a series of bad news earlier in the week, he certainly didn’t need to be.
Putting together their most complete performance of the season, the Panthers pounced on East Rowan early, dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and cruised to a surprisingly easy 41-14 non-conference win over the Mustangs on Friday night.
Austin Stilley, who continues to pull double duty at fullback and linebacker, rushed for three first-half touchdowns as Ledford accumulated 14 first downs in the opening two quarters, took command early and was never seriously threatened.
“I just didn’t know how the kids would come out tonight,” said Adams. “We found out Monday (running back) George Melvin tore his ACL (and will not return this season) and then Tuesday was the whole forfeit deal. Wednesday was kind of a ho-hum practice.
So I didn’t know what to expect. But from the opening bell, we really got after them.”
Melvin was injured two weeks ago against Asheboro and the forfeit came after Ledford was found guilty of using an ineligible junior varsity player in a varsity win over East Davidson earlier in the season.
That dropped the Panthers to .500 entering the game (4-4), but officially win No. 5 was in the cards when Stilley busted up the middle on an 8-yard scoring run to cap the home team’s opening drive.
“We didn’t really let it effect us,” said Stilley of the forfeit. “We were just looking to the next game. The offense and defense really came together tonight and in some games we’ve had trouble doing that. But we had 100 percent effort for all four quarters tonight and all 11 guys were doing their jobs.”
The Panthers bottled up East Rowan’s veer-option offense, particularly the dive back. Junior quarterback Samuel Wyrick did all he could to keep the Mustangs in the game, running for a hard-earned 48 yards and tossing for 151 and two scores. He hooked up with brother Seth on a 10-yard TD pass with just 16 seconds remaining in the first half. Salvador Sanchez’ PAT brought the Mustangs within 21-7 but any momentum they had stayed in the halftime huddle.
“We didn’t do anything after halftime,” said East Rowan coach Danny Misenheimer, whose team, which reached the third round of the 3-A state playoffs a year ago, dipped to 3-6. “The difference in the ballgame was they were more physical up front, on both sides of the ball. That’s where it was won. And we needed to win this one. For us, it has major playoff implications.”
Ledford’s opening score of the second half was literally all Dalton Harris. On the first play of the series, Harris fumbled a toss sweep from Bubba White, retreated to scoop up the loose pigskin, darted left and then wound his way all the way back down the right sideline for an electrifying 34-yard gain. Two plays later, he took another toss sweep and weaved his way to the end zone for a 38-yard score, making it 28-7.
After Cameron Maxwell recovered a fumble on the Mustangs’ next possession, Garrett Hooker got in on the scoring with a 5-yard run to cap a short 22-yard drive.
Max Hall caught a 22-yard scoring toss from Wyrick on fourth down midway through the fourth quarter for the Mustangs and then Ledford’s final TD came on a 35-yard run by Earl Stevens.
“We hadn’t seen an option team all year so you get worried about that trying to prepare in 3 or 4 days,” Adams said. “But I thought our defensive staff did a great job getting our kids ready. And last week we really didn’t play that well offensively, so we challenged our kids there. I thought this was a complete win in all phases.”
Notes: Despite being in neighboring counties, this was the first ever meeting in football for the two schools. …Harris finished with 147 yards rushing, which puts him over 1,000 for the season. …Both teams step back into conference next Friday with Ledford welcoming Southern Guilford in an important Mid-Piedmont Conference game and East Rowan hosting Central Cabarrus.
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