Pan­ther football ends on a high note

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA DEL­COUR

Pan­ther var­sity football se­niors played the last game of their high school ca­reers and treated their fans to a dra­matic 42-30 homecoming vic­tory against St. John’s Saints High School last Fri­day night Oct 12.

“It was a won­der­ful team ef­fort led by our se­niors and sup­ported by the rest of our team,” said Rap­pa­han­nock County High School’s head football coach Rowdy Stump. “We were able to take an early lead and keep the pres­sure on throughout the game. St. John's won our first con­test this year, and that did not set well with our play­ers.

“Our game plan was to es­tab­lish a strong run­ning game and elim­i­nate turnovers and penal­ties,” Stump con­tin­ued. “We were markedly im­proved in both ar­eas Fri­day night.”

The of­fense was led by run­ning back Matt Lom­bardi's record-break­ing rush­ing night (39 rushes for 353 yards) be­hind a strong block­ing ef­fort by the offensive line and the back­field block­ing of Tanyon Lee. Lee also led the team with seven tack­les while Aaron Dod­son sup­ported Lom­bardi’s ef­forts with 10 rushes for 32 yards.

“It was a great way to go out, as a se­nior,” Lom­bardi said of the game and his team­mates (who num­bered just 21). “By far, Lo­gan Vest, Britt Hip­ple, Patrick Fo­ley, Brian Kelly, Dwight Clatterbuc­k, Case Kramer and Grayson Love had their best game of their se­nior year. Blocked to per­fec­tion. Holes opened im­me­di­ately when the ball was snapped. Records were bro­ken. It was the funnest game I’ve played in my Rap­pa­han­nock ca­reer.

“Lo­gan Vest, in my eyes the leader of our de­fense as a mid­dle line­backer, dom­i­nated all year,” Lom­bardi said. “Throughout the sea­son, he put crush­ing hits on line­men that most peo­ple wouldn’t have got­ten up from.”

Lom­bardi let go a bar­rage of praise for his team­mates. “Hip­ple, cen­ter nose guard, rocked up. Snaps were per­fect all night. Kelly had sev­eral pan­cakes – that’s where the offensive line­man hits the de­fen­sive line­man and puts him on his back. Clatterbuc­k had a pun­ish­ing game as a de­fen­sive tackle. Fo­ley cre­ated holes for me that I didn’t have throughout the year, and he helped me pur­sue my achieve­ment of 350-plus yards. Kramer is one of the best punter/kick­ers we’ve had at this school. His on­side kick hit the kid in the chest; Kelly caught it, and we got the ball right there. I was just happy that I got to play with this group of se­niors. It’s gonna be a game we never for­get.”

In a “shout out” to Lo­gan Welch, Lom­bardi added: “He had an in­ter­cep­tion down to the wire. The quar­ter­back threw it, and Welch in­ter­cepted on the one-yard line when they were set to score. Be­cause of that play, I got to have a 70-yard run for a touch­down to end the game.”

Af­ter a pow­er­ful mo­ment of quiet re­flec­tion, Lom­bardi added the view from his po­si­tion on the grid­iron. “I went into the game be­liev­ing that I am gonna be my best and no one’s gonna stop me,” he said. “I wanted to leave the game with no re­grets. When I hit a hole, I didn’t think of what’s at the end of it or who is in my way. I was just think­ing that I’m gonna go through it. When I broke away on the last play of the game, I caught it. There was a pile of de­fend­ers around me. I broke out of it like a can­non out of a gun. Know­ing I just got the last touch­down of my se­nior year, I just stood there try­ing to take ev­ery­thing in. Case [Kramer] and Lo­gan [Vest] came up be­hind me to cel­e­brate, and ev­ery­thing broke loose. The love I have for this team will carry on. We know if any of us need any­thing, we are al­ways there for each other.”

“The coach­ing staff could not be more proud of our team,” Stump said of the play­ers, who’ve re­mained pos­i­tive throughout a frus­trat­ing 1-6 sea­son, “and I truly ap­pre­ci­ate all the sup­port our students and community pro­vided throughout the sea­son. We were just happy to give them the win they have de­served all sea­son.”

Photo by Ken­ner Love

Matt Lom­bardi breaks away from St. John's de­fend­ers for a first down in the Pan­thers' 42-30 homecoming win over the Saints last Fri­day.

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