Lumberton jumped out early and never let off the pedal as the Panthers dominated Richton 55-7 and marked their spot in the state championship game next weekend at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the Southern Miss campus.
Richton received the ball on the opening kickoff marching up the field putting together some nice plays highlighted by Dylan Farve. After some key stops and a Richton penalty, the Rebels found themselves fourth and long. Richton decided to go for it on their own 32 when Lumberton’s Xavier Holder exploded through the line and sacked Farve. Lumberton took over on downs.
On Lumberton’s first play from scrimmage, Robert Henry busted a 68-yard touchdown run giving the Panthers the early lead and setting the tone for the rest of the game.
After going up 7-0 with 5:15 remaining in the first quarter, Lumberton’s defense came up big with a four-and-out highlighted by a sack from Holder. The Panthers forced the Rebels to punt and took over on the 35-yard line.
Lumberton only needed four plays this time as Henry found K’nylan Willis on a five- yard out pass. Willis planted one foot in the ground and juked, putting the defender on skates as he scampered 17 yards into the end zone.
This score would give Lumberton a 14-0 lead with 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Lumberton’s defense stood strong once again, forcing Richton to punt.
Lumberton put together a 12-play drive, capped by a three-yard touchdown run by Henry. The touchdown marked Henry’s third of the game and brought the score to 21-0 with 5:51 remaining in the half.
One minute later Richton fumbled on the next possession and Lumberton’s Rodney Parker scooped the fumble up and ran it back 50 yards for the score with 4:55 remaining and extending Lumberton’s lead 27-0.
With 14 seconds remaining in the half, Henry dropped back in the pocket, surveyed the field and found Willis in one-on-one coverage. Henry lobbed it up and Willis came down with the grab and dove into the end zone for a 22-yard score.
Heading into the halftime Lumberton had a comfortable 35-0 lead..
Going into half, Coach Zach Jones and the Panthers played about as good as they could have played but Jones knew they must keep up the intensity for four quarters of play.
“We have to keep the pedal to the medal,” he said. “This bunch has come back week to week and we’ve got to stay on them. We cannot let up and we need to get the ball come second half and put up a score.”
The message was heard loud and clear. The Panthers found the end zone once again with a 37-yard touchdown grab by Jason Buckley from Henry. After a successful kick the score was extended to 42-0 with 7:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth, the run game continued to be a success as Trevon Jessie punched it in with a seven-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers a 48-0 lead with 10:06 remaining in the game.
Richton finally find the end zone with a 45-yard touchdown run by Brennon Shattles, narrowing the margin 48-7 with 8:12 left in the ballgame.
With the game out of reach at this point, Jones pulled his starters and gave his underclassmen some play. Freshman running back Kelby Bush took the handoff and sprinted 75 yards for a score, putting the nail in the coffin and giving the Panthers the win by the final of 55-7.
Henry led the way for the Panthers, contributing to five total touchdowns (3 passing and 2 rushing). The running back ended the night with 104 rushing yards on just 10 rushes and was 10-12 passing for 238 yards. Defensive end holder lead the defense with three sacks.
Jones was pleased with his team’s performance and was proud on how his team and the community showed up for the South State game.
“Richton has shown that they could come back and make any game close,” Jones said. “I was extremely proud of how our guys closed out the game. All the hard work they have put in to get here has made me proud of this group of guys. It’s so important to look around and see this for our town. We are truly blessed to be in this position and I couldn’t be more proud of our family.”
Lumberton will meet Nanih Waiya in the Mississippi Class IA state championship at 3 p.m. December 6 at M. M. Roberts Stadium on The University of Southern Mississippi campus in Hattiesburg.