Lumberton will have the opportunity this week to come away with its fifth straight region title.
However, the Panthers, which have now won 33 straight region games, will for the second year in a row need to defeat Resurrection Catholic to seal a championship win.
“This is playoff atmosphere,” Lumberton coach Zach Jones said. “(Resurrection) needs a win, and we know we are going to get their best shot because we always do. This is our rival in our division. They played us really hard last year, and we know they are going to do the same Friday night.”
Lumberton set up Friday night’s matchup with a dominant 46-10 win over Richton, who the Panthers defeated in South State a season ago. Running back Robert Henry led Lumberton with 221 rushing yards and three touchdowns. For Henry, the game was his second 200-yard rushing yard game on the season and his sixth straight game of running for over 100 yards. Quarterback Rodney Parker also added 81 rushing yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win.
Resurrection lost last week to Sebastopol 49-35, which means that if Lumberton were to lose to the Eagles this week that the Panthers could still seal an outright championship with a win against Mount Olive. If Lumberton wins this week against Resurrection, then the Panthers will secure a No. 1 seed in the playoffs and home-field advantage.
“We have set ourselves up for this,” Jones said. “This is what we have worked for, and this is what we have wanted, and it sets us up for home-field advantage in the playoffs. That’s big, especially this time of year. This is big because, with the next game, there are a lot of implications with it. If we win, then it puts things in our favor.”
Resurrection features a rushing attack that has averaged 136 per game with a passing game that averages 62 yards per game. Offensively, running back Will Clemens leads Resurrection with 449 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, along with 127 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 10 catches.
“(Clemens) really runs the ball hard,” Jones said. “He’s not the biggest kid, but he runs the ball hard and makes plays. He’s not flashy but very consistent, which is the mark of a very good football player. He does everything well, and he is their go-to guy. We have to be sure that we have eyes on him. I’m not going to say we need to stop him because I don’t think you can stop him, but we are going to try and limit him.”
In addition, quarterback Riley Matthews has thrown for 436 yards and three touchdowns and has rushed for 197 yards and four touchdowns.
“Their quarterback does a good job of controlling the game,” Jones said. “They get you to sleep because all of a sudden they’ll hit you with a screen or hit something down the field. We can’t fall asleep in the secondary. I think their run game sets up their passing game. You have to be so set on stopping the run, so we have to play well in the secondary on Friday night.”
Clemens is also the centerpiece of Resurrection’s defense, which has held teams to an average of 14.5 points per game. Clemens posts a team-leading 95 tackles and four interceptions.
“They run a 3-man front,” Jones said. “(Clemens) plays in the secondary, but they move him around a little bit to play in different spots. He is very active and always around the football. To me, he is their best football player. He is a guy that we have to make sure we have eyes on him offensively and defensively.”