East breathes new life into one-sided rivalry
Commenting before last weeks game, East Davidson football coach Vance Hanner spoke about how the Golden Eagles need to actually win against Ledford in order for it to be a rivalry. I concur, but Friday's effort was a great place to start.
Since 2007, the Panthers have completely dominated the yearly matchup, beating the Golden Eagles soundly and effectively deflating what was once a fierce rivalry. The kids may have grown up playing with and against each other at different levels of competition, creating somewhat of a rivalry between the two. But when the lights have flashed on in high school, the yearly meetings have been one-sided and not that exciting.
Times may be changing.
In the offseason, Hanner was hired to guide East on the gridiron. His success has been immediate. EDHS breezed through its competition the first three weeks, turning some heads along the way. The most recent win came in a come-from-behind effort against former Central Carolina Conference foe Central Davidson. That got people talking.
With Ledford next up on the slate, excitement began to build on both sides. When game time finally rolled around, one look around East Davidson Community Stadium told the story. East football was relevant again.
Fans were jammed into the bleachers and others that could not find a seat lined the fence around the perimeter of the playing field. It had the feel of a rivalry game but the product on the field still needed to do its part to make it one.
Boy did they ever.
It was a night defensive coordinators dream of. There was little to be had on offense, as both defenses rose to the occasion time and time again.
Ledford broke through first on a deep pass play. Bubba White rolled out of the pocket and aired out a wobbly pass down the field. Tyler Scott camped out under it and went in for the 54-yard touchdown.
East got even just before halftime. After failing on a corner route in the end zone to Michael Ramos, quarterback Austin Wallace tried the same play again and the two hooked up. It was 7-7 at intermission.
The Golden Eagles took the opening drive of the second half down the field and settled for a Salvador Pecina field goal. Ledford knew at that point there was no easy evening this time around. East was for real.
Panther head coach Chris Adams could certainly sense it. On the ensuing drive as LHS approached midfield, tailback George Melvin carried the ball for a short gain. Adams stormed out onto the field past the numbers, yelling at one of his linemen to get his assignment right. He and the other linemen were receptive to the stern message.
Melvin later danced into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
It was showtime for the defenses after that.
East held after they had thrown an interception, but the Panthers came up with the stop of the game with 7:42 remaining. Bryce Bolen took the handoff on fourth-and-1 and hit the pile. The push of LHS was strong enough to keep him inches short. East had lost its best chance of coming back and Ledford held on.
East had lost another game in the series, but so much more was gained. Not only was the rivalry refreshed, but respect had been earned. After the handshake line and team meetings at opposite ends of the field, players returned to midfield in a classy show of sportsmanship and congratulated each other on a more personal level.
Only time will tell if this rivalry has truly returned. But for one night a short distance off Interstate 85 in Thomasville, fans came in droves to see neighboring schools give it their all. If this rivalry was nearly extinguished, it might just have gotten the spark it needs to burn hot once more.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.