Panther Creek linebacker Ryan Callahan and defensive back Isaiah Laster have made a habit of getting their hands on the football. If that trend continues, the Catamounts might have a conference championship.
Callahan and Laster had a hand in three of Panther Creek’s five forced turnovers in a 24-7 win against visiting Holly Springs on Thursday.
Callahan recovered a fumble, picked off a pass and blocked a punt, while Laster added his fifth interception of the season.
“We’ve known since January that this was going to be the best defense Panther Creek has ever had,” Callahan said. “Coach (Anthony) Sullivan is the best defensive coordinator we’ve ever had. He puts us in the position. Our turnovers are not because we’re making plays, it’s because he’s putting us in position. We’ve just got to capitalize every Friday.”
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Panther Creek (9-1, 6-0), now winners of nine in a row, can take the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference title outright with either a Friday loss by Green Hope or by beating the arch-rival Falcons next week.
“We have a bunch of friends over there. They talk a bunch of smack,” Laster said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Holly Springs (5-5, 2-4) had just 31 yards of offense at halftime, trailing 17-0. Its only score came with 26.7 seconds left in the third quarter on a 2-yard run by Nehemiah Harris, but Panther Creek responded on its next drive with a 1-yard run by Addison Pinkney.
The Catamounts scored an 18-yard back-breaking touchdown on a throw from third-year starting quarterback Brenden Magner to Diamante Taylor with 27 seconds remaining in the first half.
“We can see the maturation where (Magner) came from to where he is now, and it’s big,” Panther Creek coach Sean Crocker siad.
Callahan’s blocked punt set up a short field for the Catamounts’ first score. When stopped initially, Crocker called a fake field goal pass as Tre Sullivan flipped a shovel pass to Dallas Hancock that moved the ball 13 yards to the 3 yard line. Two plays later, Toney Bass punched it in from 1 yard out for a 7-0 lead.
Phillip Stone also added a 31-yard field goal for Panther Creek.
Holly Springs will likely need to win its season finale next week against Apex to make it into the playoffs.
“Basically the playoffs have started. The seniors are guaranteed just one more game. It looks as though, if we win we’re in; if we don’t, then we’re done,” said first-year coach Wayne Bragg, who was Crocker’s predecessor at Panther Creek. “We’ve got to come back Monday and get back after it. That’s all you can do.”