by Aaron Garcia
The Piedmont football team (8-1, 6-0 Rocky River 1A/2A conference) returns to the field Friday, Oct. 29, after sitting idle last week. The Panthers haven’t lost a game in their last seven tries, but coach Frank Ambrose isn’t worried that the week off will disrupt his team’s momentum.
“I think you can look at it in a couple of ways,” said Ambrose. “I think for us, we’ve had some good, physical games, so this gives us a chance to get rested and healed.
“Going into an off week, you can always focus on something, and we focused on getting Piedmont better, offensively and defensively and (in) our kicking game. That’s how we challenged ourselves. We gave the kids a lot of things we needed to work on, and we took them one by one.”
The Panthers last played on Oct. 15, when they blanked West Stanly, 17-0, a performance that highlighted one of their best – and most overlooked – qualities.
“On offense, it’s easy to get statistics with 400 yards rushing in this game and that game, but our defense has pitched three shutouts this year,” he noted. “I think we play great team defense. Those kids get after it; I think they have (forced) 17 turnovers in nine games. We’ve given it up three times, so that puts it at (a) plus-14 (turnover margin) for us.”
Ambrose said much of the production starts up front with defensive tackles Lucas Fisher and Kyle Eiss, who have demanded double teams all season, giving linebacker Justin Crump the time and space to make many of his 51 tackles.
“If you don’t double team those guys, they’ll beat you,” Ambrose said.
But the offense hasn’t been too shabby, either. Running back Jacob Oakley has rushed for 1,269 yards and 13 touchdowns on 148 carries, while Caleb Gordon has racked up 551 yards on 93 carries. Quarterback Ross Rushing has also gotten in on the act, gaining 586 yards and 12 touchdowns to complement his 896 passing yards and nine scores. Though the Panthers run the vast majority of the time, Cameron Leviner has provided a steady safety valve at receiver, catching 19 passes for 402 yards and five scores.
Piedmont travels to North Stanly (3-6, 2-4) Friday before hosting Berry (9-0, 6-0) on Friday, Nov. 5, to close the regular season.
Mavs stay alive; Brent hits milestone
With a little more than three minutes remaining in Marvin Ridge’s game against Anson Senior on Oct. 22, the Mavericks’ postseason hopes were dangling by a thread. After dropping its first two conference games to rivals Porter Ridge and Sun Valley, Marvin Ridge trailed the Bearcats, 34-31, and a promising drive had stalled, giving the Mavs one more shot on fourth-and-7 at Anson’s 49.
Coach Scott Chadwick called a timeout to discuss the options with the offense. He had a play in mind, but quarterback Tyler Chadwick and receiver K.J. Brent had another idea.
“Tyler and K.J. were adamant about throwing a fade,” said the coach. “I said, ‘All right, if you want to run it, run it.’
“I looked at (Brent) and said, ‘You better catch it,’” he added with a chuckle.
Tyler Chadwick found Brent for a 36-yard gain, setting up the quarterback’s game-winning draw with 26 seconds left to give the Mavs the 38-34 win. It was Marvin Ridge’s last chance at a knockout in the back-and-forth slugfest. Anson took the lead, 13-7 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter, but a track meet broke out as the teams traded touchdowns. Chadwick’s score was the 52nd point scored in the game’s final 16 minutes.
“That could be a season-saving play,” said the coach, whose team started the year 6-0. A third consecutive loss probably would’ve presented the Mavericks with a hill too steep to climb to reach the state playoffs.
“It was a big-time throw and a big-time catch,” said the coach.
Tyler Chadwick completed 11 of 20 passes for three touchdowns with one interception, while Brent notched five receptions for 162 yards and two scores. His third-quarter touchdown was the 100th catch of his career.
“For two years now, those two have had very good chemistry and have worked really well together,” Scott Chadwick said. “Obviously, there’s a comfort level between the two of them.”
Freshman Jacob Henderson also made an impact, accounting for 222 all-purpose yards.
Aside from just keeping the Mavericks’ playoff hopes alive, the win showed the coach that his team still has plenty of fight left.
“What showed me something about our kids is that we were on the road, and we were able to just show up and play football,” said Chadwick. “I was just really pleased with how we handled ourselves over there. The fact that we were able to make that many big plays in the fourth quarter on the road (said a lot).”
The Mavericks host Parkwood this week before closing their season against rival Weddington on Friday, Nov. 5.
Karas doubles team advances
On Friday, Oct. 29, Cuthbertson’s McKenna and Kallie Karas will take the next step in defending their Class 2A doubles state championship. The duo faces Roanoke Rapids’ Dzidzai Muyengwa and Rebecca White in the first round of the state tournament at the Cary Tennis Center. Action begins at 11 a.m., and the finals will be held Saturday, Oct. 30.