Middle School football pummels Panthers to secure playoff berth

  • Lumpkin running back Mason Sullens keeps his feet to pick up some big yards for the Indians in the team’s final regular season game against the Union County Panthers.
    Lumpkin running back Mason Sullens keeps his feet to pick up some big yards for the Indians in the team’s final regular season game against the Union County Panthers.

The LCMS eighth grade football team secured regular season runner-up honors and the opportunity to host the Mountain League semifinals when they defeated the Union County Panthers 32-20 in the Indians’ final regular season game of 2019 last Thursday, Oct. 3.
The Indians came into the game with a record of 4-1, with their only loss of the season coming at the hands of undefeated Pickens County, and needed to beat Union County in order to lock down second place in the Mountain League regular season standings and secure a spot in the Mountain League semifinals.
The Indians got off to a fast start versus the Panthers, taking the opening possession of the game 63 yards downfield on four plays for a touchdown.
Lumpkin was backed up by a false start penalty on its first offensive play, but strong runs by LCMS running backs Jonathan Castillo and Will Wood allowed the Indians to erase the penalty and advance into Union County territory. On the fourth play of the drive, Wood broke free from the Panthers’ defense and sped his way to the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown. Wood’s score put the Indians ahead 6-0 with 6:08 remaining in the first quarter.
LCMS quarterback Cal Faulkner extended the Lumpkin lead to 8-0 when he threw a dart to LCMS wide receiver Bradley Hicks in the flats, allowing Hicks to tiptoe into the end zone on the two-point attempt.
The Indians’ defense held strong in its first action of the game. The Panthers tried to get something going on the ground on their first possession of the game, but the Lumpkin defense and two false start penalties stalled the drive before it got started. The Indians forced a three-and-out, making Union County punt the ball away.
The Indians didn’t have the same kind of production they enjoyed on the opening drive of the game on their next possession and were forced to punt the ball after picking up just four yards.
The Panthers showed more fight on their second drive of the contest, but the Indians’ defense once again proved they were up to the challenge and once again halted the drive and forced the Panthers to punt.
Lumpkin’s offense didn’t let the opportunity given to it by its defense go to waste and went 64 yards on five plays for the Indians’ second touchdown of the afternoon.
The Indians once again got a huge run from Wood to extend their lead over the Panthers to 14-0. Wood received the handoff at the Union County 43-yard-line and ran right into a host of Panthers. It appeared that Wood was about to be taken down, but the Indian running back kept his legs pumping and bulldozed his way through the web of defenders and broke free for a 43-yard touchdown run. Wood’s second touchdown of the game upped the Indians’ lead to 14-0. Hicks added two more points on the two-point conversion with another great grab, putting Lumpkin ahead 16-0 with 5:27 left in the first half of play.
The Indians appeared to be in full control at that point, but Union County answered right back with one-play. Starting at their own 45-yard-line, the Panthers finally found a crack in the Indians’ defense which allowed their running back to break free and chug his way to a 55-yard touchdown run. The Panthers failed to convert on the two-point try, but cut the Indians’ lead to 16-6 with 5:07 left in the half.
The Lumpkin offense wasn’t phased by the Union County touchdown and methodically went back to work on its ensuing possession. Faulkner got the drive started with a six-yard quarterback keeper. Castillo followed with a eight-yard run to get the Indians to the Panthers’ 27-yard-line. Faulkner then completed a five-yard pass to Wood. On the fourth play of the drive, Faulkner handed the ball off to Wood and the LCMS running back plowed his way through the Union county defense to score his third touchdown of the game and to put Lumpkin up 22-6. Hicks converted the two-point try with a nifty run, giving the Indians a 24-6 advantage with 3:15 left in the first half.
The Indians’ defense kept the momentum in favor of Lumpkin, forcing the Panthers to punt after three plays. During the Panthers’ punt attempt, Steven Yorky got through the line and blocked the Union County kick to give the Indians great field position at the Union County 22-yard-line.
Faulkner and the Indians took advantage of the terrific defensive play by Yorky and scored another touchdown before halftime to go ahead of the Panthers 32-6.
After a nice nine-yard run by Faulkner, the Lumpkin quarterback threw a strike to Preston Cox for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Cox’s reception combined with a successful two-point run by Mason Sullens gave the Indians a 32-6 lead going into the halftime break.
The Panthers came out strong to start the second half and drove the ball all the way to the Indians’ 12-yard-line before being stopped on a fourth-and-eight play by Lumpkin’s defense to force a turnover on downs.
The Indians’ first possession of the second half stalled out after Lumpkin picked up 35 yards, forcing Lumpkin to punt the ball.
The Panthers seized the opportunity and quickly drove 67 yards on two plays to cut the Indians lead to 32-14 with 3:44 left in the game. Union County first completed a 56-yard pass to get inside Lumpkin territory before handing the ball off for an 11-yard touchdown run.
The Panthers got the ball right back with an interception on the Indians’ ensuing drive. Union didn’t let the turnover go to waste and cut the Indians’ lead to 32-20 with a 41-yard touchdown pass.
However, with just 1:23 left on the clock, the Panthers’ hopes of mounting a late comeback would fall short and the Indians would emerge victorious by a final score of 32-20.
The win extended the Indians’ win streak to four games and improved the team’s record to 5-1. The 5-1 mark was enough to allow Lumpkin to secure second place in the Mountain League regular season standings, giving the Indians the opportunity to host the upcoming Mountain League semifinals.

Up Next:
The LCMS seventh grade football team, who finished the 2019 regular season undefeated at 5-0, will  play for a spot in the championship game when they host Gilmer County at the LCMS stadium tomorrow, Oct. 10, for the seventh grade semifinals. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.
The LCMS eighth grade football team will look to keep their winning ways going when they face off with rival Dawson County in the Mountain League semifinals at the LCMS stadium tomorrow, Oct. 10, after the seventh grade semifinal game. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.