Panther football ends on a high note
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.”
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.