Football: Averett tops Panthers 65-62 in wild four-overtime USA South conference opener

Football: Averett tops Panthers 65-62 in wild  four-overtime USA South conference opener

LaGrange and Averett opened their USA South schedules with a heart-stopping four overtime thriller at Callaway Stadium on Saturday. The Cougars prevailed 65-62 on Cole Westberry's 36-yard field goal in the final overtime.

"Our team played with a lot of excitement and never quit attitude. We fought all the way to the end," said Coach Matt Mumme. "We made some mistakes on both sides of the ball and we will have to clean those up this week. 

"The USA South conference is a challenge every week and we have to be better and that includes me."

The game featured 11 lead changes and was tied on six other occasions. The two teams combined for 1,160 yards of total offense, with the Panthers finishing with 536 yards.

Junior quarterback Connor Blair threw for seven touchdowns, setting new school and USA South game records in the process. Blair had just set the school and tied the conference record with six TD passes in the Panthers' last game at Ave Maria. He finished the game with 447 yards through the air and three interceptions.

Sophomore wide receiver Kiontai Button also set school and USA South records. He returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The TD was the longest kickoff return in school and conference history. He also set a school record with 220 return yards, and the return was the longet play in school history, eclipsing Brandon Crawford's 98-yard run against Brevard in 2007.

The Panthers (2-2, 0-1 USA South) forced overtime with a touchdown in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. Averett (2-2, 1-0 USA South) had just taken a 48-41 lead with 1:38 left.

The Cougars were forced to kickoff from their own 25 after a deadball personal foul penalty on the scoring play. The kickoff went straight to Brendan Thomas at the Cougars' 40-yard line to set the Panthers up in great scoring position.

The Panthers got a first down down to the 29, but soon faced fourth and 10 from the same spot. Blair lofted a pass toward the goal line as Lavell Meeks outjumped the Averett defender to pull in the touchdown pass. Zachary Kudwa's extra point tied the game at 48.

The Panthers were poised for a potential game-winning score in the third overtime. Westberry had missed from 42 yards on the Cougars' possession. The Panthers got down to the 3-yard line but Seth Brendle intercepted Blair in the end zone to force the fourth and final overtime period.

The two teams played to a 27-27 tie in the first half. Travis Jones' 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave the Cougars a 24-20 lead. Button answered for the Panthers 16 seconds later with his record return to put the Panthers up 27-24. Westberry tied the game with a 20-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half.

The Panthers will be at Greensboro next Saturday for a USA South game.