NEWBERRY - Prior to Batesburg-Leesville High’s hosting of Newberry High on Friday night, the Panthers band played the introduction music of the Olympics several moments before the national anthem.
The Bulldogs literally had every bit of a gold medal performance that night as they amassed 391 yards of offense and 16 first downs, compared to the Panthers’ 44 and 2, respectively, as Newberry improved to 6-3 on the season and 3-1 in the region after a 27-7 victory.
“I think our offensive line did a heck of a job tonight,” said Newberry head coach Phil Strickland. “They blocked extremely well.”
Coupled with last year’s loss to Strom Thurmond, Batesburg-Leesville had not lost consecutive senior night games since the 1976-77 seasons. Newberry won the 1976 meeting, 13-3.
Tyon Williams, who apparently injured both of his ankles against Ninety Six, participated in the warm-ups and started the game but did not carry the ball a single time before coming out for the rest of the night during the first possession.
Starting quarterback Khalil Sheppard, who returned from sitting out last week due to a slight concussion, led the Bulldogs on their opening drive after they won the coin.
The sophomore picked up 22 yards on just two carries but the Bulldogs would go on a three-and-out after this.
The Panthers’ first five offensive possessions in the first half ended in three-and-outs.
While under pressure on a third down, Sheppard threw up a pass in the hope it would get caught inside the 10 yard line. It was instead intercepted at the eight.
Newberry started off at its 39 as it never saw a second down marker the entire time with a six-play drive with Shrine Bowl selected player Eric Gallman scoring his first of two consecutive touchdowns with a carry up the middle from four yards out with 1:31 left in the opening stanza.
Jose Lozano’s PAT was blocked.
Gallman scored again less than four minutes later as Newberry’s 61-yard drive never went to the air any of the five plays with the senior scoring from two yards out with 10:50 left in the half.
“Don’t be surprised if he does play as a running back,” said Strickland of Gallman’s upcoming Shrine Bowl. “It’s too bad we cannot play him more offensively but he’s just too good on defense.”
Sheppard’s two-point pass to Tovaris Cureton was good for the 14-0 score.
Leading by 14 and knowing Batesburg-Leesville was going to get the ball to start the second half, the Bulldogs were hoping to get a little insurance score before heading to the locker rooms.
After a holding penalty, Newberry started its final first half possession at their 38. Cureton seemed to have both of his tiptoes in at the Panther 40, which was a potential 22 yard pick-up. But the officials ruled Cureton had landed out-of-bounds much to the disagreement of the Newberry faithful.
Going from the Panthers’ 41 back to mid-field through the course of two different plays, Sheppard and company were facing a third-and-19 with just over a minute to the half.
Sheppard swept over to his left aiming for either Cureton or Jalin Alexander around the 20 as they were in double coverage with the Panthers having the advantage on the direction of the pass.
All four players dove for the ball with Cureton tipping the ball up before Alexander was able to land back on his feet, make the reception and go in for the touchdown with 58.6 seconds left.
Lozano’s PAT was good before the Panthers took a knee to end the first half and trailing 21-0.
Newberry had already accumulated 223 yards of offense (170 through the air) compared to Batesburg-Leesville’s 21, which all came from the ground.
Terrance Wilson reached back over his head to grab the second half opening kickoff as he raced 93 yards for the touchdown to avoid a potential shut-out to Newberry since 1960.
Starting off at their 26 on its first possession of the second half, Newberry was able to convert a third-and-16 into a fourth-and-two after a pass from Sheppard to Alexander.
With Gallman in the backfield, people seemed to sense he would get the ball for a simple run up the middle. He had other plans though as he wouldn’t be brought down on his left side run for 36 yards.
Jaylen Caldwell caught a 10-yard pass from Sheppard two plays later to end the scoring by both teams after another blocked PAT with still 7:16 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers had its eighth consecutive possession without garnering a first down before punting to Newberry with 47.8 seconds left in the third stanza.
Tysheen Nance, who ended the night with 120 yards on 19 carries, literally carried all 11 Panthers at one time or another on his 26-yard run, forcing the Panthers to call a time out one play before the start of the final quarter.
“He did a heck of a job this week,” Strickland said of Nance’s performances both in practice and in the game itself.
Newberry made one last effort for a score but Sheppard’s pass to Alexander was incomplete in the end zone two plays into the final stanza. Having only run 25 offensive plays all night, Batesburg-Leesville failed twice to pick up left in the game.
Their next play also resulted in a first down but they would punt from their 36 four plays later.
The Panthers never made it up to their 40 yard line the entire night.
“The kids executed well,” Strickland said of his team’s defensive play. Chad Davis and Jack Huggins finished the game out for Newberry as quarterback with one possession apiece.
If the Panthers were to have a player of the game, it would probably be awarded to full back Juawan Ethridge as the senior picked up 30 yards rushing. Out of his 16 carries, it seems like at least one Bulldog helped him to his feet every single time after the tackle.
Besides Nance, Sheppard had an excellent night rushing with 122 yards on 15 carries.
Gallman went 42 yards on three carries while Omar Sims saw 29 yards on four carries.
K.J. Fields went two yards on three carries, Devin Marshall picked up a lone yard on one carry while Newberry’s 314 yards of rushing ended with a knee from Huggins to end the game.
Alexander caught two passes for 64 yards, Cureton made a three-yard grab and Jaylen Caldwell caught one pass for 10 yards.
The 2012 regular season comes to a close Friday night with a trip to Mid-Carolina as the Rebels and the Bulldogs tangle for the 30th time, including 29 straight seasons since 1984.
“We know what to expect (from Mid-Carolina), we just have to come out and play,” Strickland noted.