By Zach Buckley
It was imaginable that the Lumberton Panthers and Stringer Red Devils would find themselves in a defensive showdown. Senior bruiser Davion Edwards scored the game’s only touchdown. The 235lb Panther running back rammed into the end zone for a four-yard gash with 4:41 left in the second quarter. No one expected the Lumberton scorekeeper to develop a finger blister, but a 7-0 final score?
Offensively, the game was ugly but not due to sloppy play or bad effort. Defensively, both teams had multiple fourth down stops, multiple stops in the red zone and two turnovers each. But Lumberton’s defense was exceptional. The Panthers held Stringer to 154 yards of total offense and pitched the Red Devils their first shutout of the season.
Stringer simply couldn’t find their rhythm with the ball, but its defense would not give in to the pressure. They bent all night long, but never truly broke. Lumberton rushed for 201 yards, passed for another 100, but the Red Devils made the needed stops to give them a chance at the end.
In the end, drama ensued. Lumberton punted the ball with less than two minutes to go in the game. The Devils threw some trickery to keep their drive alive on a throwback to the quarterback from Omarion Bridges to Caleb Dyess. Facing fourth and long with 37 seconds left, Dyess connected with Cooper Rogers for a first down in the red zone at the 21-second mark.
The Red Devils had their chance to take to the Panthers to overtime from the three yards on second down, but Lumberton’s Robert Henry picked off Dyess with five seconds left and iced the Devils chances. Lumberton won 7-0 its third region championship in three years.
After the game, Stringer head coach John Brown had this to say about his team’s effort.
“I’m very proud of our effort. Our kids played hard and relentless, and I’m so proud of that. Offensively, we have to clean some things up, especially on the front.”
This is still a young season for both teams; they could very well meet again in 2018. “I think if both teams keep playing like they did tonight, I could see us playing again. Another season is about to start, and we have to get ready for the playoffs,” said Brown.
The Red Devils have some unfinished business in the regular season. They face Sacred Heart at home next week. Stringer was upset last by the Crusaders, and Stringer needs to exact some revenge.
“We have a great bunch of seniors playing their last regular season home game. We’re going to be ready to play, and hopefully, make a statement going into the playoffs. We’re not going to take them lightly. They beat us last year,” noted Brown.
As the playoff picture gets more clear, Stringer can finish second place in Region 4-1A with a victory over Sacred Heart at home next week.