FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - Nicholas Searcy and Brendon Scott combined for 252 rushing yards and three touchdowns as LaGrange beat Methodist 39-30 on Saturday in a USA South game. The victory was the first of the season for the Panthers (1-2, 1-0 USA South) and for new head coach Steve Pardue.
"I'm proud of the way the kids fought today," Pardue said. "We had a great week of preparation and then we get down but we responded well to the adversity. For most of the second half, we played with a ton of energy. We need to learn to play at a high level for four quarters."
Searcy ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns while Scott had 119 yards that included a 50-yard run for a touchdown. It was the first time since the 2012 season the Panthers had a 100-yard rusher in a game and two in a game. The 234 yards rushing as a team was the 10th most in a game for LC.
"We had really emphasized running the football during practice," Pardue said. "I thought the offensive line did a great job in the second half."
Methodist (0-3, 0-1 USA South) took a quick 7-0 lead when Tristan Ellerbe returned an intercepted Connor Blair pass 23 yards for the score. Scott set up the Panthers with great field position with a 61-yard kickoff return. Blair threw a 7-yard pass to Marcus Campbell, cutting the Monarchs' lead to 7-6.
Trailing 14-6 in the second quarter, Blair hooked up with Kiontai Button on a 45-yard scoring play. The two-point conversion failed as the Panthers trailed by two at halftime.
The Monarchs took advantage of another Panther turnover in the third quarter to extend their lead to 21-12. LC responded with four straight scoring drives.
Searcy ripped off a 35-yard run that drew the Panthers within two, 21-19. On the next drive, Scott burst right up the middle for his touchdown run to give the Panthers their first lead, 26-21. Blair threw his third touchdown of the game, a 24-yard strike to Djeimon Owens as the Panthers took a 32-21 lead into the fourth quarter.
Searcy capped his career day with a 25-yard touchdown run as the Panthers opened up a 39-21 lead. Methodist got a touchdown later in the quarter and the Panthers took an intentional safety on the final play of the game for the 39-30 final. It is the first win in six tries for LC against Methodist.
"Fabian Ryan showed a lot of leadership in the second half," said Pardue. "I really appreciate the way he came out and played in the second half."
Ryan led the LC defense with nine tackles, including a quarterback sack. Xavier Coaxum had eight tackles, while Demetrius Rodgers had his first career interception.
"It's great to get the first win and be 1-0 in the conference," Pardue added. "We'll try to keep the momentum going next week against Brevard."
Kickoff for the Brevard game is set for 1 p.m.