The Oak Grove Grizzlies survived a tremendous challenge from the Ledford Panthers to remain undefeated after a heart-stopping 21-14 overtime victory over their conference rival on Friday night.
The game pitted two teams, each with a special goal entering the game. The visiting Ledford team was looking to bounce back following a 30-6 drubbing by Salisbury on October 18, while the home-standing Grizzlies’ objective was to remain undefeated and continue their quest for the conference championship. With this scenario, both teams played with tremendous effort, and the game did not disappoint the fans in the packed stadium.
Both teams spent the first quarter trying to move the ball on the ground and only three passes were attempted. The third pass came from Ledford’s Walker Lackey with only seconds remaining in the quarter and was picked off by Oak Grove’s Anthony Bowen, his first of three interceptions for the game. The Grizzlies took advantage of the turnover, and after starting at their own 34-yard line, drove sixty-six yards to ring up the first score of the game. The scoring play was a beautiful 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ian McGlamery to Jared Gibble who went over Ledford defenders to snare the football. The PAT kick from Caleb Schoenberger was good giving Oak Grove a 7-0 lead with 8:54 left in the second stanza.
On Ledford’s next possession, Bowen picked off his second pass on the night, but the Grizzlies were unable to sustain a drive and punted to the Panthers. Ledford took over on its own 11-yard line with 4:36 remaining in the first half. It didn’t take long for Ledford to strike as Lackey took off for 66 yards on the first play to set the Panthers up at the Oak Grove 23-yard line. Following a couple of running plays, Lackey found Drew Rabon on a 13-yard touchdown strike. However, the Panthers were unsuccessful on their two-point conversion attempt, and Oak Grove went into the locker room at half time up 7-6.
Neither team was able to mount consistent offense in the third quarter due to the outstanding defensive play of both teams. The Oak Grove defense was tested early in the period after the offense turned the ball over on a fumble. The fumble was recovered by Ledford’s Presley Morgan near midfield, but the Oak Grove defense stiffened and stopped the Panthers at the Oak Grove 26 on downs. As the teams entered the final fifteen minutes of play, Oak Grove maintained its 7-6 advantage.
On the initial play of the final quarter, Ledford’s Jared Clark intercepted a McGlamery pass, and the Panthers took possession of the ball at the Ledford 47-yard line. After a couple of unsuccessful plays and a penalty, the Panthers faced a third-and 12. At this point, Coach Chris Adams of Ledford inserted freshman Nathan Carr as the quarterback and moved Walker Lackey to receiver, which proved to be a very intelligent decision. On the 3rd down play, Carr sent a pass downfield toward Lackey who was tightly covered. However, Lackey outleaped the defender, grabbed the pass and continued on to the end zone to complete the 55-yard scoring play. Ledford again elected to go for 2 points and Lackey was moved back to quarterback for the attempt. He was successful in reaching the end zone on his run, and the Panthers were ahead for the first time in the game, 14-7, with 11:02 remaining in the game.
On Oak Grove’s ensuing possession, Owen Finley picked off an errant McGlamery pass, and Ledford owned the ball at its own 23-yard line. After the Panthers earned one first down, the Grizzly defense held and forced a Ledford punt. With 5:01 left in the game, Oak Grove took possession at its own 38-yard line needing a touchdown to send the game into overtime and preserve its perfect season. Using its strong running game, the Grizzlies moved the ball into Ledford territory and faced a crucial 4th and 5 from the Ledford 33-yard line. Quarterback McGlamery hit Gibble for a crucial 9-yard gain on 4th down, and the Grizzlies still had life with a first down at the Ledford 24 yard line. Coach Mark Holcomb dialed up three consecutive runs at this point, but the Grizzlies were unable to earn a first down and faced another do-or-die 4th down from the 17-yard line. McGlamery, an Averitt College commit for next year, again delivered in the clutch tossing a 17-yard dime to Seth Blair to make the score 14-13 with 38 seconds remaining in the game. Caleb Schoenberger kicked the all-important PAT to tie the score at 14-14.
The fireworks were not over as Ledford’s Lackey fumbled on the kickoff return and Oak Grove’s Ryan Taylor recovered it on the Panthers’ 36-yard line. Oak Grove threw three incompletions before McGlamery’s fourth-down pass was complete. However, the completion only gained 9 yards and possession went to Ledford with only seconds remaining. Ledford’s Lackey took a knee, and the game would be decided in overtime.
The first possession of overtime went to Oak Grove, and the Grizzlies scored quickly. On the second play of the series, Aiden Shewcow, the workhorse in Oak Grove’s rushing attack all night, took it to the end zone from 9 yards out to give Oak Grove the lead at 20-14. Schoenberger’s PAT increased the lead to 21-14.
Now Ledford had to score a touchdown or the game was over. It appeared that Oak Grove held Ledford on 4th-and-goal, but a defensive holding call against the Grizzlies moved the ball to the 4-yard line for the final play. With everyone in the stadium holding their breath, Lackey threw a pass into the end zone, which was intercepted by none other than Anthony Bowen, his third and final interception of the night. The interception set off a wild celebration by both the Oak Grove players and fans with the fans storming the field to join the players.
McGlamery commented on his game-tying touchdown pass to Blair following the game. He stated that he simply went through his key reads, looked off the defensive player, scrambled a little to avoid a sack and threw the ball to Seth. He credited Blair with making a great run following his reception.
Coach Holcomb of Oak Grove gave credit to his defensive coaches for doing a great job of adapting their defensive schemes to Ledford’s offensive game plan. Oak Grove did not expect the Panthers to try and pound the ball like they did so changes had to be made. Holcomb was very proud of his team and said they “had some guts” to come back and win the game. He stated that he knew his players had great character, but they proved that fact on the field.
Although Ledford dropped the game, Coach Chris Adams was pleased with the manner in which his team bounced back from their loss to Salisbury and the effort the Panthers exhibited in this game at Oak Grove.
Oak Grove now stands at 9-0 and will determine its own fate in the Central Carolina 2-A championship race. The Grizzlies will conclude their conference schedule with an away game at Thomasville next Friday, November 1, before returning home for the finale against East Davidson on the 8th of November.