FLS Varsity brings you the scores, stats and stories from Fredericksburg-area high school sports.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Panthers remain perfect with rally
The Massaponax football team knew what was at stake in Friday’s key Commonwealth District clash against visiting Mountain View.
The Wildcats had handed the Panthers four straight losses during the past three seasons, including a season-ending 45–21 defeat in last year’s Division 5 playoffs.
“This is a smart team and they knew what the situation was. They had been talking about this game for a long time,” said Massaponax coach Eric Ludden after watching his team pull away for a hard-earned 32–22 victory.
The comeback victory was the Panthers’ seventh straight without a loss and kept them entrenched atop the Class 5A–North standings.
Mountain View, which led 14–12 at halftime, dropped to 3–3, but is still very much alive in the 5A–North playoff scenario.
“We’re close,” said Wildcats coach Lou Sorrentino. “[Massaponax] is a good football team and they do a lot of things well. But we’re going to fight and claw. We just need to keep a positive attitude now.”
It appeared that Mountain View was going to continue its winning ways over the Panthers after making a statement on its opening drive of the game.
Running back Gordon Collins capped a 70-yard march by the Wildcats with a 2-yard scamper into the end zone for a quick 7–0 lead.
Collins was a workhorse all night, rushing for a team-high 130 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns. He also returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 81 yards for a score.
But Massaponax had the answer in its potent multiple-option attack, which produced 427 yards on the ground, including 372 by hard-running backs Javonte Latney and A.J. Forbes.
Latney gained 226 bruising yards on a season-high 20 attempts and scored twice. He literally carried the Panthers on his shoulders in a key drive in the third quarter that got them their first lead.
Forbes—all 145 pounds of him—rambled for 146 yards and scored twice in the final two minutes to help the Panthers shut the door on Mountain View’s late comeback hopes.
“This is probably one of the greatest wins we’ll have all season,” Latney said. “We hadn’t beaten them in four years. We’ve been battling through adversity all year. Now we just have to work on a few things.”
One of those things is cutting down on penalties. The Panthers were flagged 10 times for 93 yards and had an early touchdown negated by a holding call.
Trailing 14–12 at the break, they turned things around in the third quarter with a steady dose of running by Latney, Forbes and quarterback Alphonso Trice.
After Latney and Forbes both scored to put them in front 25–14 with 1:56 left in the fourth quarter, it appeared they would coast.
But it took another 7-yard touchdown run by Forbes in the final minute to seal the win after Collins returned a kickoff for another Wildcats touchdown and Elijah Burress connected with Kirron Sleydin for the 2-point PAT.
“We knew we would have to earn this one,” Ludden said. “Mountain View is always a great team and they’re well-coached. But these guys really believe in what we’re doing right now.”
Massaponax travels to Stafford next Friday, while Mountain View hosts Brooke Point.
Steve Franzello: 540/374-5440