The wheels of Justin Smalls were spinning with ease to open the game, and his teammates kept the momentum rolling as Panther Creek’s football team triumphed over Apex Friendship 48-6 at home Friday night.
Smalls had 98 all-purpose yards to open the night, returning a punt from his goal line 54 yards and taking a screen pass 44 yards the ensuing play to set up an easy 1-yard scramble for Anthony Burlingame.
The Patriots (1-4) responded with a 3-yard touchdown from Scott Sidney but failed the 2-point conversion, allowing the Catamounts (2-3) to maintain the lead the rest of the night as Burlingame threw three touchdown passes – two to Smalls and one to J Johnson – to close out the first half.
“The guys came out and competed. We knew Friendship is a young group, but they come at you and we wanted to match that intensity,” Panther Creek coach Sean Crocker said. “We had come out flat the past couple games.”
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Friendship, in its inaugural year of varsity play, will go through its growing pains against a tough schedule in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference and even in nonconference play against the likes of Cleveland and West Johnston. In the eyes of coach Adam Sanders, that’s not a negative. As he said it, “You got to play the best to be the best.
“We’re doing nothing but getting better and focusing on us and getting better. We’ve improved so much and I’m so proud of (the team). The future is very bright for us.”
After allowing Friendship to score, Panther Creek bounced back when Burlingame hit Smalls in the end zone on a 35-yard connection just over two minutes later.
THREE TO KNOW
Justin Smalls, Panther Creek: Caught three passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns and also knocked down passes as a roving safety.
Addison Pinkney, Panther Creek: 18 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
“(Three-year varsity players like Pinkney and Smalls) have been here and done that and have got to show the way for the younger guys,” Crocker said, “how to fight through adversity and conduct themselves on the field.”
Anthony Burlingame, Panther Creek: 16-for-22 for 251 yards and three touchdowns. Also ran nine times for 31 yards and two more scores.
BY THE NUMBERS
7: Different receivers Burlingame completed passes to – Smalls, Paul Nashawaty, Adam Outhout, Miles Watson, Pinkney, Johnson and Jalyn Epps.
2: Fumble recoveries for Panther Creek’s Hayden Plunkett.
THEY SAID IT
“We’re going to keep working and keep focusing on the details, and once one of those small things goes our way, it’s going to snowball in the right direction,” Sanders said.