LUMBERTON – Cooler heads prevailed in the highly anticipated matchup between unbeaten region foes Lumberton and Taylorsville.
The game was overshadowed by two of Lumberton’s own players getting ejected in the second quarter, that led to the reigning 1A state champs being handed a 26-6 loss by Taylorsville.
“I’m disappointed,” Lumberton coach Jonathan Ladner said. “They always say that great empires and kingdoms don’t ever fall from outside pressure. They fall from internal issues. We caused a lot of internal issues on ourselves tonight. We did a lot of damage on ourselves. We had an altercation with some of our kids. We had a lot of penalties, missed assignments, and that’s on me.”
The Panthers were forced to call a timeout on defense after Rodney Parker, and Khalid Bush began to argue with each other on the field. The game found itself being disrupted and delayed as the two’s argument escalated and led to Bush and Parker exchanging fists.
Flags quickly flew, which resulted in Parker, the team’s quarterback and safety, and Bush, who plays linebacker and wide receiver, being ejected from the game as well as being suspended for next week.
Before the altercation, the score was separated by just one point. Taylorsville (4-2, 4-0) scored first after a 9-play, 66-yard drive that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Cobey Craft. Lumberton responded two drives later, with Parker connecting with Hayden Campbell for a 7-yard touchdown completion. A failed two-point conversion left the Panthers trailing 7-6.
“The big thing I talked to them at halftime about was that they had to keep fighting – not literally, but figuratively,” Ladner said. “I told them the game is not over. It was 7-6 at halftime.
"We were in the ball game until midway through the fourth (quarter).”
After the altercation, things quickly deteriorated for Lumberton (4-3, 3-1). The injury bug, which had already bit the Panthers before the game and before the fight, plagued Lumberton in the second half.
Entering the game, Lumberton was without starting running back Shavante Toney, who was out with a wrist injury. Then at the start of the second quarter, backup running back Blake Walters left the game with a knee injury. The Panthers had as many as five different players go down with injuries, with the majority being ball carriers for the offense.
“That's what? Murphey’s law?” Ladner said. “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. It held true tonight. Everything went wrong. We have the two guys that get ejected. Then we have a rash of injuries that goes from ankles to knees and shoulders. We probably lost Blake Walters for the rest of the year with a knee. It looks like a ligament. It’s two weeks in a row we have lost two big, key guys.”
Between the injuries and ejections, bodies soon were hard to find as the Panthers were left with no choice but to turn to freshmen. Without Parker to lead Lumberton’s offense, the Panthers’ totaled just 17 yards in the second half. Da’Byron Connerly, who was forced to switch from wide receiver to running back and quarterback, led Lumberton’s offense with 92 all-purpose yards.
Capitalizing on Lumberton’s misfortune was Crosby, who ran all over the depleted Panther defense in the second half. Crosby broke out a 46-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and scored two more times on a 28-yard and 11-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“In baseball, you can’t give them extra outs, and in football, you can’t give them extra plays and yards,” Ladner said. They took advantage of it tonight.
“He’s a good running back. Good backs always find holes and find creases. He’s got a little burst, and he outran us a couple of times to the end zone.”
Crosby finished the game with 221 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries.
“One loss doesn’t kill us,” Ladner said. “We have to go back to the drawing board and get this taste out of our mouth. We have Enterprise at home next week. We have to be ready to play.
“I didn’t have my guys ready to play tonight. There will be a lot of things come Monday that change and need to be fixed. It starts with me."