Salisbury shut out by Ledford
By Mike Duprez
The Lexington Dispatch
WALLBURG — Ledford’s offense is still a work in progress but considering the way the Panthers are playing defense right now, it may not matter.
Garrett Hooker recovered two fumbles and blocked a punt, freshman Coleman Reich intercepted a pair of passes and the Panthers limited Salisbury to 44 yards of offense in a 26-0 rout of the Hornets last night.
Ledford (4-1) has allowed just two touchdowns in the 2015 season.
“We were No. 2 in the state in points allowed,” said Hooker, the senior linebacker who has committed to N.C. State. “After this game we may be No. 1. I think our defense is the best in the state. On offense, we’ve just got to suck it up. We’ll get there.”
The Panthers sacked Salisbury quarterback Harrison Smith six times, including one by Dallas Hartle for a safety, and forced a total of five turnovers.
“They get after it,” said Ledford coach Chris Adams. “I’m glad they’re on our side. I wouldn’t want to try to go against them.”
Salisbury (1-4) couldn’t get any traction at all, not that Hornets coach Ryan Crowder was surprised. He saw enough of the Ledford defense on game film.
“Even when we had some open space, they sucked it in,” Crowder said. “They’re that quick. They have the best defense we’ve faced all year but we knew that coming in.”
They sure knew it when Hartle buried Smith in the end zone for the game’s first points with 35.9 seconds left in the first quarter.
After a few misfires on offense, including Ben Fox fumbling into the end zone for a touchback, the Panthers finally put together a couple of big plays as quarterback Tyler Scott connected with Fox on a 38-yard catch-and-run to the Salisbury 27. Two plays later, Scott kept the ball on a read-option and darted 22 yards for a touchdown. Hunter Braswell booted the first of three extra points, giving Ledford a 9-0 lead with 4:37 left in the first half.
The Panthers finished the game with 173 yards and 12 first downs while losing three fumbles.
“We keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” Adams said. “We get some good drives going but we’ve got to finish them. We’ll get it.”
Yet another big defensive play set the Panthers up for more points right before halftime.
Hartle got another bull rush on Smith, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Donnavan Campbell at the Salisbury 9-yard line with 1.5 seconds left. Braswell then kicked a 26-yard field goal as Ledford took a 12-0 halftime lead.
A blocked punt by Hooker early in the third quarter set up the Panthers with a short field. Hooker, lining up at fullback scored from the 2-yard line to cap a six-play, 28-yard drive, extending Ledford’s lead to 19-0.
“I don’t ever remember seeing him play this well,” Adams said of the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Hooker.
Reich set up Ledford’s final score by returning a Marcus Corry interception 34 yards to the Salisbury 6-yard line in the fourth quarter. Fox took it in on the next play.
“We came in with a good game plan,” Hooker said. “Everybody knew what we had to do. Everybody took care of business and we got the win.”