Stevens: Leesville Road standout Braxton Berrios has ankle sprain

tstevens@newsobserver.comSeptember 23, 2013 

Leesville Road quarterback standout Braxton Berrios missed the second half of Friday’s 34-21 loss to Panther Creek and returned to the sidelines on crutches.

His status was questionable, but Pride coach Chad Smothers said in an email Monday that, “He’ll be fine. Sprained ankle.”

Leesville led the Catamounts 18-7 when Berrios, a national recruiting target as a wide receiver, was injured and left the game.

“It was a tough loss, but it might have been kind of good for us,” said Leesville offensive tackle Brian Henriquez. “It should help us find out who we really are. I’d rather lose now than in the playoffs.

“We need to find ourselves so that if we have another player go down in the future, we can handle it better.”

Leesville plays at 3-1 Heritage on Friday night. The Huskies gave Leesville its closest game of the regular season in 2012, falling 17-14.

Cap 8 showdown: Wake Forest, No. 1 in the N&O rankings, and Leesville Road, which was No. 1 last week, were the preseason picks in the Cap Eight 4A Conference, but Friday’s matchup between Heritage and Leesville could be one of the biggest league games of the season.

Leesville (3-1) is coming off a 34-21 non-conference loss to Panther Creek. Heritage is 3-1 with a 44-0 loss to Panther Creek, whose only loss was 18-14 to Wake Forest in the season opener.

The league looks strong with Wakefield (4-0), Wake Forest (4-0), Leesville (3-1), Millbrook (3-1) and Heritage (3-1).

The Cap Eight is 19-13 in non-conference games. No other area 4A conference has an unbeaten team.

The Greater Neuse is 17-13 in non-conference games. The SouthWest Athletic is 17-15 and the PAC-Six is 7-21. Durham Riverside (3-2) is the only PAC-Six team with a winning record.

Togetherness: Leesville Road offensive tackle Chris Pendergraft said one of the things he likes best about football is the team unity.

“I don’t know about other teams, but at Leesville we are incredibly close,” said Pendergraft, the son of former Wilmington Laney High coach Craig Pendergraft. “We do a lot of things together.”

Pendergraft said he recently realized that he is involved with the other Leesville players 48 weeks a year, including off-season workouts and conditioning.

“We have Christmas break, spring break and two weeks in summer,” he said. “We become like brothers. This is family.”

Good time for a break: Last week was a good week to have an open date.

Three of the top four teams in The News & Observer rankings played and all lost. No. 2 Wake Forest had an open date, but No. 1 Leesville Road, No. 3 Middle Creek and No. 4 Durham Hillside all went down.

So did No. 7 Clayton and No. 10 Green Hope. The only two top-10 teams to win last week were Garner and Erwin Triton. No. 5 Orange and No. 9 Knightdale also were off last week.

Riverside stops: Apex advanced the ball into the Riverside red zone six times during regulation on Friday. The Cougars scored touchdowns two times, fumbled twice and went 1 of 2 on field goal tries in the 37-31 double-overtime loss.

It briefly appeared Apex had scored another touchdown. A game official signaled an Apex touchdown in the first quarter but quickly corrected the call.

The Apex runner had been stopped as he crossed the 5-yard line, not the goal line, but that didn't stop the band from playing, fans and players from celebrating and a “Touchdown Apex!” call over the public address system.

Apex missed a field goal a few plays later.

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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