Shades of the Batesburg-Leesville rushing offense appeared late in Friday’s 2A Divsision II playoff game against Central.
It was just enough yardage for the Panthers to seal a 21-7 victory against the Eagles at Panthers Stadium, and just enough of a rally to secure a road game at Chesnee for the Upper State championship next week.
Chesnee defeated Ninety Six 46-28 Friday night to advance.
“We’re glad to just have a chance,” Batesburg-Leesville (10-2) coach Jerry Brown said. “We just need to win one more and we’ll be in the state championship. It always feels good.”
Quarterback Jac’quiel Chandler threw the game’s only touchdown pass, a 56-yard strike to Terrance Wilson, and had 14 carries for 72 yards and two other TDs to lead Batesburg-Leesville.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Chandler said about going on the road for the Upper State game. “It’s something we’ve got to take, so we just gotta go get it.”
Rickie Smith had a team-high 82 rushing yards on 20 carries for the Panthers.
Central (8-4) outrushed Batesburg-Leesville 207 yards to 165, but the Panthers came out in the second half to pull out a win.
Tied 7-7 going into the third quarter, the Batesburg-Leesville defense halted Central’s rushing attack that dominated the Panthers in the first half. The Eagles kept racking up first downs, but were stymied twice deep in Batesburg-Leesville territory.
Each time, the Panthers responded with a touchdown.
Batesburg-Leesville ground a long Central drive to a stop at the Panthers 34-yard line. It took five plays for Batesburg-Leesville to march 66 yards, including a game-high 38-yard Chandler run, for the go-ahead touchdown.
Rickie Smith burst through the line on the right side and battled 25 yards for the go-ahead score at the 3:36 mark of the third.
The defense then stopped another long Central drive, this time at the Batesburg-Leesville 35. The Panthers put together a 14-play, 65-yard drive that wiped off seven minutes of the clock.
Chandler scored the game-clinching touchdown on a 4-yard run with 5:35 to go.
“We just got caught sleeping,” Chandler said. “The linebackers were coming through on the inside, so we had to figure out a way to get out on the outside. At halftime, we talked about switching up some offensive schemes, and switching out some blocks, and we were able to do that.”
Even though the Eagles and Panthers battled to a 7-7 tie by the end of the first half, Central was in control.
The rushing-heavy Eagles had eight first downs, 138 rushing yards and 32 carries on 41 offensive snaps and controlled the ball for much of the half.
Batesburg-Leesville, which blasted Landrum 63-27 last week, ran 20 offensive plays for 14 rushing yards and one first down. Two lost fumbles kept the momentum with the Eagles.
Things started brightly for the Panthers, as they forced Central to punt on the first possession. On Batesburg-Leesville’s second offensive play, Chandler connected with Terrance Wilson for a 57-yard pass play. Chandler dove into the end zone to put the Panthers ahead 7-0 at the 7:56 mark of the first quarter.
Otherwise, Central’s interior linemen contained Batesburg-Leesville’s rushing attack. Caylep Bracy fell on a Panthers fumble, which led to Mitch Meadows’ game-tying 5-yard touchdown run with 11:21 left in the second quarter.
From there on into the locker rooms, both teams battled on the ground with neither gaining an advantage.
“They were pretty charged up and did a good job,” Brown said of the Eagles. “They out-executed us in the first half. In the second half, our defense played a lot better and we used a couple of formations here and there and we did a lot better, sustaining some drives.”
B – Jac’quiel Chandler 1 run (Alexander Caughman kick) 7:56
C – Mitch Meadows 5 run (Joseph Rollins kick) 11:21
B – Rickie Smith 25 run (Caughman kick) 3:36
B – Chandler 4 run (Caughman kick) 5:35