Apr. 11—WALLBURG — Following a delayed start because of lightning, Ledford struck quickly and then often.
Setting the tone with a touchdown on its first play from scrimmage, the Panthers scored on their first four possessions and turned back visiting East Davidson, 35-8, in the season finale for the Central Carolina 2A rivals that kicked off 2 hours, 20 minutes late because of storms and ended as Friday was about to turn into Saturday.
“I’m proud of the way they stayed focused and the way they stayed ready to play,” Ledford head coach Chris Adams said. “Something like this, you don’t know, kids can be all over the place. They stayed locked in. They wanted to play. We had a bad taste in our mouths after last week (a lopsided loss to Salisbury).”
After the storms that included rain and hail moved through, the start was originally set for 9:30 but another lightning strike pushed that back to 9:50.
“It was crazy,” Ledford senior running back Christian Franklin said. “We came out on the field and the lightning started again. So we went back up, sat back down and then they told us in 15 minutes we’re going to start the game. We didn’t really get a warmup. After that first run, I got pretty tight because we didn’t get to stretch. But overall it was good.”
That first run turned into a 58-yard lightning-quick burst past the Golden Eagle defense for a touchdown 31 seconds into the game.
“I just saw a hole and said to myself that I needed to get the ball into the endzone,” Franklin said.
Sophomore quarterback Peyton Carr had a hand in the other three early scores. He ran nine yards for the second touchdown, the only one of the four that came on the end of a sustained drive.
He tossed a 60-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ridge on a one-play possession to make it 21-0, and then ran 1-yard for the fourth to end a three-play possession, with 9:21 left in the second half.
“It was weird,” Carr said of the delay. “We chilled in the locker room. But when we came out to play, we knew it was go-time.”
Franklin finished with 222 of the Panthers’ 242 yards rushing and two touchdowns. His output also included a 48-yard run to the East 2 that set up Carr’s 1-yard score, and on a play similar to his opening run, zipped 72 yards for a score to make it 35-8 with 5:55 left in the game, a play after East notched its score.
“The line was blocking and the receivers were blocking,” Franklin said. “They were doing their jobs, so I had to do mine.”
Carr finished with 158 yards passing and the one score. He almost had another touchdown throw, which would have put the Panthers up 35-0 late in the second quarter, but the ball bounced off the receiver in the endzone and was intercepted.
That was something of a turning point for East, which regrouped and moved the ball in the second half after mustering just 69 yards in the first.
The Golden Eagles finished with 238 and outgained Ledford 167-132 over the final two periods. But, East was unable to move inside the Ledford 20 until Devin Skeen carried 45 yards to the Panther 5, setting up Mason Albertson’s 5-yard touchdown run on an end-around with just over 9:30 left in the game.
Skeen led East with 84 yards rushing. Freshman quarterback Brogan Hill saw action in the second half and gained 76 yards, and Josiah Allred had 61.
“I’ll have to look at the tape but it looked like a pretty good game for us yardage-wise,” East head coach Vance Hanner said. “But, our bugaboo all season has been not getting in the end zone. That’s been our Achilles heel. But, the effort was tremendous. I love this senior group. I wish I could play for me from now on. I’m going to miss those guys,”
Hanner said East had trouble handling Ledford’s speed at first.
“I left it to them and they finally settled down,” Hanner said. “But, Franklin is really fast and we can’t simulate that in practice. It took us time to adjust defensively to what Ledford was trying to do.”
Both teams missed the abbreviated NCHSAA playoffs that begin Friday.
Ledford finishes 4-3 and at 3-3 wound up fifth in the CCC, which had three automatic qualifiers for the postseason.
“This season has had its highs and lows and we’ll leave it at that,” Adams said. “At times we played well and at times we made too many mistakes to beat the quality teams that we needed to beat. We didn’t make the playoffs but we had our chances and I don’t think both those teams (North Davidson and Oak Grove) playing Welcome tonight (for the conference title) want to play us again.
“Bottom line, we’ve been a little bit inconsistent at times but tonight we wanted to prove a point in a big rivalry game.”
East winds up 2-4, 1-4 in the conference. The Golden Eagles 2-2 before a game against Thomasville scheduled two weeks ago was cancelled because of COVID.
“We had our worst game of the season last week against West (a 30-8 loss) after the Thomasville game was cancelled,” Hanner said. “We couldn’t even practice that week so now we’re just getting back into a rhythm this week. It’s been tough.”
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