With Lumberton struggling offensively in the first half, Cullen Hammond returned a blocked punt 22 yards for a touchdown to give the Panthers control of Region 4-1A, beating the Resurrection Eagles 20-17 Friday night.
Both Lumberton coach Zach Jones and Resurrection coach Scott Sisson said they wouldn’t be surprised if the two teams saw each other again in the South State finals. That happened last year, with Resurrection (8-2, 4-1) winning both meetings.
“That was a very good football team,” Jones said. “(Resurrection) is an excellent team. Our defense was really good. It was a very gutsy, gutsy effort by our team.”
Faced with fourth-and-5 at the Eagles 39 and his team clinging to a 17-14 lead with 7:35 left to play, Sisson called for the punt. However, Jaden Galloway slashed through the Eagles punt team to block the kick, which was picked up by Hammond and returned for the touchdown.
“This game could have gone either way throughout the game,” Sisson said. “We had a miscue on the punt that cost us. Then we had the bad snap when we were driving the ball. We hadn’t had a bad snap all year, and we have one late in the game.
“Things did not fall into place for us. We’ve been fortunate all year that most of these things did not happen to us. Tonight was not our night.”
The win puts Lumberton (8-2, 5-0) in the driver’s seat in district play.
Next week, the Panthers host Stringer, also 4-1 in region play. A win gives Lumberton the region championship and Resurrection, which beat the Red Devils 42-7 Oct. 8, would be the region runner-up.
The possibility of a Stringer win in Lumberton, though, makes Resurrection’s game against Salem important. If the Eagles lose to Salem and Stringer beats Lumberton, Stringer will take the region title with the Panthers finishing second and Resurrection third.
A Stringer win and Resurrection win, though, will set up a three-way tie for the top spot in the region, with the strong possibility of Lumberton finishing third and Resurrection winning the championship.
Dre Coleman came into Friday’s game with 1,297 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Panthers. Resurrection held the Lumberton back to just 63 yards on 21 carries, although he scored on a 9-yard dart in the second quarter to give the Panthers a 14-10 lead at halftime.
Watts managed to break the century mark, gaining 110 yards and scoring on a 3-yard run in the third quarter to give Resurrection a 17-14 lead.
Cearly Parker scored on a 20-yard run with seven minutes left in the first half. Caden Perez opened the scoring for Resurrection with a 29-yard field goal in the first quarter.