Comets hold on to down Ledford

Ledford’s Demetrius Jones (left) breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Asheboro’s Robert Bittle during the first quarter of their game Friday night. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

WALLBURG | Ledford football coach Chris Adams isn’t necessarily trying to be a fortune teller.

He just keeps predicting things almost to a tee when it comes to his Panthers and the majority of the 3-A Mid-Piedmont Conference.

“I know I keep saying this but it is anybody’s title,” said Adams, moments after his team dropped a tough 21-14 decision to Asheboro in front of a huge homecoming crowd. “This is actually five games in a row now for us that have been decided by a touchdown or less. I thought our kids played hard tonight and the effort by both teams was second to none.

“We just seem to make bad mistakes at the wrong time and that’s just killing us.”

Asheboro quarterback Shyheim Lineberry was the difference in this one, tossing for two touchdown passes, running for another key score in the third quarter and not throwing an incompletion in the second half (9-for-9).

Lineberry hooked up with sophomore wideout Emmanuel Jones on both of his touchdowns through the air as the visitors improved to 5-2 overall, 2-0 in the conference and surpassed last season’s win total of four games.

“These kids are resilient,” said first-year head coach Owen George, who had been as an assistant at Asheboro for more than a decade. “We’ve preached family and we are really leaning on one another this year. We are picking each other up, believing a little bit more. And we talked in pre-game that this game would be a war.

“We knew Ledford would be a tough team.”

The Panthers welcomed back senior quarterback Bubba White after he missed last week’s loss to Central Davidson with a knee injury. But bad luck struck again midway through the first quarter when fullback George Melvin went down with his own knee injury. After the Comets got on the scoreboard with a 29-yard TD pass from Lineberry to Jones with 6:36 left in the first, Melvin was hurt two plays later after being tackled on a 21-yard completion from White.

And he didn’t return.

“That really changes what we like to do,” said Adams. “We also lost Tyler Scott, our free safety and one of our wide receivers to a concussion in the first quarter. We just seem to not be able to get healthy. But everybody’s dealing with that this time of year so you can’t use it as an excuse.”

With Melvin out, Ledford’s offensive set mainly became a double tight end, three-back set, with Dalton Harris, Austin Stilley and Garrett Hooker.

And the Panthers did find running room, mainly right up the gut of the Comet defense.

The home team put together an impressive, 17-play drive that took seven and a half minutes off the clock in the second quarter. The series stalled however, after the Panthers were on the short end of a tough offensive pass interference call in the end zone, which wiped out a 10-yard scoring pass from White to Austin Humphries. That pushed Ledford back to the 25-yard line and eventually a 34-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.

The Panthers had a huge opportunity to try and knot the score late in the first half when George opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 40 and the Comets were stopped with 2:10 showing on the clock.

But White was sacked on first down and Ledford was forced to punt after not gaining a first down, ultimately running out the first half clock.

Ledford eventually did find the end zone on its second possession of the second half. A 10-play, 79-yard march culminated with Stilley, who played most of the game on both sides of the ball, bulling his way in from 20 yards out, carrying several Comet defenders for the final few yards.

But Asheboro quickly regained the lead behind Lineberry, who finished with 201 yards passing in the second half and 241 for the game.

On a crucial third-and 11 from the Panther 16-yard line, Lineberry rolled right to pass and kept scrambling all the way to the front corner of the end zone.

“He is such a dual threat,” said George. “We’ve talked to him about keeping plays alive with his feet, but he is really improved on his accuracy throwing the ball. This game just shows what kind of player he is.”

Asheboro seemingly put the game away with 6:26 remaining when Jones pulled in a 64-yard scoring toss on a fly pattern down the left sideline.

Ledford crept back within a touchdown just three minutes later, though, at 21-14 when Stilley reached up to catch White’s pass in the flat, somehow kept his balance by putting his left hand on the ground and basically dove into the end zone for a 15-yard scoring pass.

The Comets converted two critical first downs on its final possession, leaving Ledford with one last play deep in its own territory.

George echoed Adams’ sentiments after the game. “It is still anybody’s title to win in this league, “ he said. “It’s a conference with great coaches and a very physical conference. There is still a lot of football left to be played, but we like where we are.”

Notes: Adams heaped praise on Stilley’s performance. “What he does effort and desire wise, you can’t say enough about it,” Adams. “He just didn’t come off the field tonight. If I told him to go do cartwheels and then go tackle somebody, he wouldn’t ask any questions and he’d go do it.”

Ledford dropped to 1-2 in the MPC, 4-3 overall and will travel to Southwestern Randolph next Friday. … Asheboro welcomes Southern Guilford next Friday. …Haley Motsinger, daughter of Mike and Lisa Motsinger, was crowned homecoming queen at halftime.