Spartans rally past Ledford

Central Davidson’s Brandon Capuano (left) fends off Ledford linebacker Austin Stilley on a run during their game Friday night. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

Now you know why they call them "special" teams.

Central Davidson return specialist Brandon Capuano returned one kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown late in the second period, and then returned another 56 yards to set up a game-winning touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining to help give the Spartans a rousing 32-28 come-from-behind victory over Ledford in 3-A Mid-Piedmont Conference action Friday night at Spartan Community Stadium.

That’s special.

“Wow,” was all first-year Central coach Chad Tedder could say — at first.

“When we returned that kick, I knew we’d be all right,” said Tedder, whose team is now 2-0 in the league, 3-3 overall. “We can’t go the length of a football field in our offense in under two minutes. It’s just very difficult for us to do that.

“So my hat’s off to Brandon Capuano for the long dang touchdown run in the first half, and then the dang long one that got us across midfield. I mean, that was big.”

Capuano’s second return brought the ball to the Panther 31 with 1:41 to go. The Spartans scratched and clawed for yardage, and aided by a Ledford penalty, reached the 10.

Finally, on third down, Central quarterback Chris Moore found 6-foot-4 wideout Christopher Pompey on a beautifully thrown pass for the go-ahead score with 41.7 seconds left in the game.

“That was a true fade to Pompey,” said Tedder. “He can go up and he’s got the best hands on the team. At first, we were going to call a “skinny,” a little slant, but he ran a V-cut where he goes inside and pops back out.

“That was a heckuva throw,” beamed Tedder. “It was a great pass.”

The Spartans could have surrendered early after two straight lost fumbles on their first two consecutive possessions of the game. Moore fumbled the ball away on a keeper at his own 20. Two plays later, Ledford’s George Melvin rambled in from 10 yards out for a 7-0 lead.

Moments later, Pompey — who was punting — couldn’t handle a high snap, giving Ledford the ball at the Spartan 5. From there, Dalton Harris scored to put the Panthers up 14-0 in a matter of three minutes.

The Spartans finally got on the scoreboard in the second period when Adam Mills rolled in on a 20-yard TD run, but the PAT kick failed as Central trailed 14-6.

Then Central’s defense stepped up as defensive back Evan Stovall intercepted a Koby Younger pass, giving Central the ball at the Panther 17. Seven plays later, Moore scored on a 1-yard keeper as Central trailed 14-13.

The Spartans had no sooner scored than Ledford struck again. This time, Melvin — who appeared bottled up at the Central 34 — broke free for a 66-yard TD run. The PAT attempt was botched, but Younger, the holder, picked up the loose ball and scored on the conversion run as Ledford went up 22-13.

Then it was Capuano who burst on the scene with an electrifying 90-yard kickoff return. He broke several tackles along the way and got a key block at midfield that sent him on his way. Just like that, the Spartans trailed 22-20 with 4:04 in the half.

But Ledford answered just before the intermission when Edgar Deras booted a 30-yard field goal to boost the Panthers’ lead to 25-20.

In the third period there was a strange sequence when Ledford’s defense rose up to stop Central at the 1-yard line on downs. But when Ledford took over, Harris was brought down in the end zone for a safety, and Central trailed 25-22.

In the final period, Central’s Moore, playing defensive back, came up with an interception to give the Spartans the ball at Ledford’s 10. Central still couldn’t punch it in and settled for a 20-yard field goal from Andrew Curry to tie the game at 25-25.

In a game where momentum swung one way and then another, Ledford marched 65 yards before settling for a 32-yard field goal from Deras for a 28-25 lead with 1:51 left to play.

Then it was Capuano again, this time setting up the Spartans for the big finish.

“We just seemed to let our guard down at the wrong time,” said Ledford coach Chris Adams, whose team is now 1-1 in the league, 4-2 overall. “We got off to that big league and we had opportunities to put them away and stretch it, but we let them get back in it.

 “All we had to do at the end was cover the kick and pin them deep,” said Adams. “With what they do offensively that comes to our advantage, but then we let them have the big return.”

Notes: Central came up with four interceptions in the game. In addition to Moore and Stovall, Pompey and Capuano also came up with picks. … Central’s Marquez Stiller had 84 yards rushing on 18 attempts. … Ledford’s Melvin had 131 yards rushing on 14 carries. … Ledford entertains Asheboro on Friday. … Central Davidson visits Southern Guilford on Friday.