Lumberton comes up short in 1A state title game

By DAVID GUSTAFSONJ,

Nanih Waiya proved to be too big and too strong for Lumberton and the Warriors from Winston County ended the Panthers 2019 season Friday afternoon with a 28-13 win in the 2019 1A state title game.

“This was a tough and physical team,” said Lumberton Coach Zach Jones. “They are who we thought they were. They out-coached us and out-played us.”

On the first play of Lumberton’s first possession, junior quarterback Robert Henry ran 50 yards straight to the endzone on an impressive quarterback keeper to give the Panthers a quick (and early) 6-0 lead.

Henry ended the first half with 71 rushing yards and led the Panthers with 147rushing yards for the game.

Undeterred, Nanih Waiya responded quickly with a five-play drive, ending with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Donovan Turner to Tylan Glass and following the extra point, the Warriors jumped out to a 7-6 lead and never looked back – and never gave up their lead.

They would score again with 6:14 left in the first half on a six-yard touchdown run from senior Shia Moore, who – along with Turner and junior Austin Sanders – ran all over the Panthers. The trio of Moore, Turner, and Sanders ended the game with a combined 382 rushing yards. Turner led the team with 192 rushing yards.

The Panthers picked up a spark with 3:36 left in the first half when junior K’nlyan Willis snagged a poorly-thrown lob pass from Turner near the end zone, but Lumberton could not capitalize on the turnover and was forced to punt three plays later.

“We had some drives late in the game we didn’t finish,” said Jones. “You have to finish those drive to win the game and we fell short of that.”

The teams went into the locker room at halftime with Nanih Waiya leading 14-6.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Lumberton dominated the ball possession with a 9-play drive, but only managed to net 25 yards. Nanih Waiya picked up 90 yards of penalties in the same scoreless quarter.

Nanih Waiya would go on to score twice more in the fourth quarter on runs from Sanders and Moore.

Lumberton picked up a final touchdown with 2:55 left in the game on a one-yard run from Jessie to bring the Panthers, but recovered Lumberton’s onside kick and ran out the clock.

After the game, an emotional, but optimistic Jones said he was as proud of his players to end the season as he was when the season started.

 “My thoughts of our kids hasn’t changed,” he said. “I love them and I’m proud of them. I think the best two teams out of 32 made it here. It just wasn’t our night.”

Lumberton ended the season with 12-4 record and the team was a perfect 8-0 in district play. After losing two of the first three games, the Panthers went on a seven-game winning streak before losing to Mobile Faith Academy on Nov. 1.

Several key players will return for Lumberton in 2020 including juniors Robert Henry, K’nylan Willis, and Trevon Jessie.

For a full gallery of photos by Matt Bush, visit: https://bit.ly/2s0xi9Y