The “Battle of the Creeks” brought out the best of high school football as The News & Observer No. 2 Middle Creek and No. 7 Panther Creek drew an overflow crowd of 4,500-plus Friday night at the Catamounts’ stadium.
Panther Creek threatened to upset the unbeaten Mustangs until some fourth-down gambles in the fourth quarter backfired and Middle Creek, winners by a 55-27 score, scored the game’s final 21 points to blow open a close game.
The bleachers were filled on both sides of the stadium, including a sea of red on Middle Creek’s visiting side. Panther Creek athletic director L.J. Hepp said ticket takers told him fans in cars were pulling into a jammed parking lot into the second quarter and turning around when they couldn’t find a parking spot.
“It was an exciting,” said Middle Creek running back Darian Fogg, who finished with 11 carries for 109 yards and three touchdowns. “They had a great crowd here. Our fans were great, too.”
Middle Creek improved to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in conference play in its Southwest Wake Athletic Conference opener. Panther Creek (3-2, 1-1 SWAC) was the third ranked team the Mustangs have defeated in this week’s Top 15. They previously beat No. 12 Wakefield 44-31 and No. 4 Garner 38-14.
Panther Creek’s first hint of an upset was taking a 6-0 lead in the first quarter when senior Diamante Taylor returned an intercepted pass 61 yards down the left sideline.
Middle Creek regained the game’s momentum to take a 27-19 halftime lead, but the Catamounts weren’t finished.
Panther Creek quarterback Dom Samson scrambled from pressure on a third-and-10 from his 9-yard line and found Taylor open for a pass on the left sideline. Taylor spun off a tackler and raced 91 yards for a TD. A two-point conversion pass to Caleb Cross tied the game 27-27 with 7:12 left in the third quarter.
But Middle Creek was undaunted, taking a 34-27 lead on its next possession. The Mustangs marched eight plays and 78 yards before scoring on Fogg’s 5-yard run.
“Coach pushes us hard in practice,” said Fogg of first-year head coach Randy Ragland. “Coach kept telling us to know our assignments and execute. We knew we could win this game if we kept playing hard.”
Middle Creek’s offense was nearly perfectly balanced with 40 carries for 273 yards rushing and 275 yards passing. Quarterback Dominique Shoffner completed 16 of 29 passes.
Middle Creek also benefited from Johnathan Spencer’s 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for a 20-13 lead in the second quarter.
“The guys fought hard against a great Middle Creek team,” said Panther Creek coach Sean Crocker. “The guys were making plays and being resilient. We just ran out of gas.”