Leading 14-7 in the waning seconds of the first half, Sterlington would have been content to run out the clock. Instead, Dallas Reagor broke around the right edge for a 60-yard touchdown run on what turned out to be the pivotal play in the Panthers’ 40-19 victory over Ouachita Christian on Friday night.

“That was a huge play that probably turned the ballgame around,” said Sterlington coach Lee Doty of Reagor’s run, which widened the the Panthers’ halftime margin to 20-7.

Sterlington started the game with a defensive stand after Eli Extine’s 28-yard interception return gave the Eagles favorable field position at the plus-33.

With OCS facing fourth-and-two from the 25, Colin Foy and Caleb Andrews stopped a running play two yards deep in the backfield.

Taking over on downs at the 27, the Panthers proceeded to march 73 yards on 11 plays.

Layton Rainbolt’s 11-yard reception plus an additional 15 yards stepped off against the Eagles for unsportsmanlike conduct, pushed the Panthers to the plus-30. Two carries by Reagor netted 28 yards, setting up Hayes Crockett’s one yard-sneak. Jacob Green added the extra point to put the Panthers up 7-0 midway through the opening frame.

Following an empty OCS possession, Landon Graves’ 47-yard punt rolled dead at the 17.

Crockett’s 29-yard pass to Ram Foster started the eight-play drive, which culminated with Jordan Townsend’s eight-yard run on fourth-and-two. Tight end Hixson Street ran interference for Townsend as the Panthers built a 14-0 lead with under a minute to play in the opening frame.

OCS’ defense came up with four takeaways, but converted only one into points. Aidan Ham’s 12-yard return off the Eagles’ second pick of the evening enabled the offense to take over at their own 45.

Dillon Dougan’s 24-yard run and Herring’s 13-yard pass to Will Fitzhugh sparked a six-play, 55-yard drive, punctuated by Herring’s nine-yard run up the middle. Samuel Harrell’s PAT trimmed the margin to 14-7, 1:46 before halftime.

The two sides then traded punts, with the Panthers setting up for one final play after Rainbolt’s 21-yard return.

Bouncing to his right, Reagor picked up a block from tight end Zach Jones, and pulled away from four defenders to give the Panthers a 20-7 halftime edge.

“When you’re up 3-0 in turnover margin at halftime, you would think you would be in a pretty good situation,” OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh said. “Sterlington won the first quarter. I thought we were winning the second quarter until Reagor broke the long run right before halftime. Again, as I’ve been saying all week, Reagor is an outstanding running back.

“We’re looking at a 14-7 halftime deficit, and getting the ball to start the second half, but we didn’t finish the first half strong. That was a big, big play.”

OCS countered with a crisp five-play, 72-yard drive to open the second half.

Will Fitzhugh exploded for 20 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Herring covered the final 30 yards, including a two-yard TD burst to bring the Eagles within striking distance at 20-13.

“Reagor’s run before halftime should have been a back breaker, but as usual, we took our foot off the gas,” Doty said. “OCS came out and drove it down our throats to start the second half. We talked about putting them away when we had the chance all week long, but we refuse to do what we need to do.”

Regaining possession at the 20 after a missed 50-yard field goal by the Panthers, the Eagles’ next series turned into a disaster.

A first down holding penalty, two delay of game flags and an Andrews sack brought up fourth-and-28 from the 2.

Fielding the punt at the 33, Rainbolt veered to his left, followed a block from Dorian Eddins at the 14 and crashed into the end zone to give the Panthers a 26-13 cushion late in the third quarter.

“Good players make big plays. Reagor and Rainbolt made big plays tonight,” Fitzhugh said. “It was a hard-fought battle. Sterlington just made more plays than we did. They’re a good football team.”

OCS continued to battle. Extine’s two-yard run capped a nine-play, 63-yard drive to make it a single possession game, once again, 26-19 early in the final quarter.

Sterlington turned the game over to its offensive line from there. Lining up behind Matthew Husser, Joby Guthrie, Devan Henderson, Cameron Rivera, Brock Risinger and Braden Bruscato, the Panthers called 10 consecutive running plays on a 78-yard scoring drive with Townsend doing the honors from four yards out. Oren Keller’s extra point upped the Panthers’ lead to 33-19 with 7:40 remaining.

OCS’ next series ended at the Sterlington 46 when a fourth down pass off of a fake punt fell incomplete.

Ethan Hogan’s fumble recovery off the strip by Grant Mashaw turned the ball back over to the Eagles at their own 36 at the four-minute mark.

Sterlington’s offense was back on the field four plays later as Jaden Davis broke up a fourth down pass.

Two plays later, Reagor’s 33-yard run sealed the Panthers’ victory.

Both teams are at home next Friday — OCS vs. Jena, and Sterlington vs. Oak Grove.

Notes: Sterlington defensive coordinator Randy Carr missed the game to be with his hospitalized father. … Doty ran the defense during Carr’s absence. … Reagor turned out 240 yards on 20 attempts. … Will Fitzhugh carried seven times for 39 yards, while moving up to No. 5 on OCS’ all-time rushing chart. With 2,440 career yards, Fitzhugh overtook Josh Schmitt (2,417) on the list. … Dr. Hardy Gordon of Louisiana Pain Care was presented with a game ball prior to the game. … OCS now leads the all-time series 22-17, although the Panthers have won the last three meetings.

________________________________________________________________

By the Numbers

OCS …………………………… SHS

13 ……… First downs …………. 19

31-170 … Rushes-yards ……. 42-336

93 ……… Yards passing ……. 92

31-10-0 .. Passes (A-C-I) …… 14-7-2

4-37.5 …. Punts-avg. ……….. 1-18

1-0 …….. Fumbles-lost ……… 3-2

9-62 …… Penalties-yards …… 4-20

SCORING SUMMARY

OCS ….. 0   7   6   6 — 19

SHS …..14   6   6  14—40

FIRST QUARTER

S — Hayes Crockett 2-run (Jacob Green kick), 5:56

S — Jordan Townsend 8-run (Green kick), 0:55

SECOND QUARTER

OC — Hunter Herring 8-run (Samuel Harrell kick), 1:46

S — Dallas Reagor 60-run (kick failed), 0:00

THIRD QUARTER

OC — Herring 8-run (kick failed), 10:14

S — Layton Rainbolt 33-punt return (kick blocked), 2:33

FOURTH QUARTER

OC — Eli Extine 2-run (kick failed), 10:56

S — Townsend 4-run (Oren Keller kick), 7:40

S — Reagor 33-run (Keller kick), 2:24

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING — Ouachita Christian: Hunter Herring 16-97-2, Will Fitzhugh 7-39, Dillon Dougan 3-27. Sterlington: Reagor 20-240-2, Townsend 16-69-2.

PASSING (A-C-I) — Ouachita Christian: Herring 30-10-0-93-0. Sterlington: Crockett 14-7-0-92-0.

RECEIVING — Extine 6-71. Sterlington: Rainbolt 3-33, Ram Foster 2-42.

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