Panthers notch resounding victory
Austin Stilley turned his first two carries of the night into touchdowns, and the Ledford Panthers jumped out to a two-score lead en route to a 41-14 win over East Rowan on Friday night.
The Panthers' running back — and star linebacker — would go on to score a third touchdown and make several big plays on defense before the Mustangs could score a point.
"He's just a tough kid," Ledford coach Chris Adams said. "We leave him in there and he doesn't want to come out. He's just hard-nosed, tough, physical, the hardest-working kid in the program."
Ledford (5-4) set the tone early with its running game. Dalton Harris carried five times on the opening drive for 44 yards, giving way to Stilley on the final play of the possession, an 8-yard run into the end zone. Stilley's next carry also earned him six points, as his 25-yard scamper gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead with three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Harris's role was not limited to running the football. He also made a remarkable catch on the sidelines to keep a Ledford drive alive. The possession resulted in a 29-yard touchdown run by Stilley with just two minutes until the half.
The defense held on each of East Rowan's first two drives, stopping the Mustangs on 4th-and-1 near midfield and 4th-and-5 at the Panther 30. As a result, the home team was able to capture momentum it would not relinquish.
"I'm just proud of our kids," said Adams. "It's been a rough week."
Leading up to Friday night's win, Ledford's program was hit with bad news beginning with Monday's report that starting fullback George Melvin would miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury. That was followed the next day by a forfeiture stemming from an ineligible player used in a midseason victory over East Davidson.
In spite of the obstacles, the Panthers put together their most complete performance of the season.
"Monday, we find out about George. Tuesday, we find out about the forfeit deal," Adams said. "It was just a whole lot of bad news this week, but the kids kept battling and we had a good week of preparation. I didn't know how our kids would respond, but I think they responded with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. I hope that carries over into conference play next week against Southern Guilford."
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.