By Brian Paglia
When Stockbridge's Kargo Glekiah recovered his own field goal attempt for a touchdown after his line-drive kick bounced off the lineman in front of him, cutting Forest Park's 14-point lead in half just before halftime, Panthers coach Rod Perrymond feared the misfortunes of Forest Park's season were at work again.
"That's the type of stuff that's been happening" all season long, Perrymond said.
And then the Panthers' fortunes swung with one kick by Stockbridge punter Greg Barnes, the one that was short and stuck to Leandre Ingram's chest. Ingram brought it back for a touchdown for the pivotal play in Forest Park's 28-13 victory over Stockbridge on Thursday at Twelve Oaks Stadium in a Region 4-AAAA game.
"That's big," Perrymond said. "That's what we've been needing all year. We just haven't had any breaks like that. We finally got one [Thursday] and were fortunate to block a punt and take it in."
Ingram's touchdown came after Stockbridge (1-6, 0-5) stalled on its first possession in the second half. Three straight handoffs to Tigers running back Dominique Smith resulted in nine yards and forced Stockbridge to bring out its punt unit, a unit that coach Don Vandygriff tinkered with in the week leading up to the game.
The rust showed when Barnes' punt barely cleared the line of scrimmage. The frustrations of Stockbridge's season were exacerbated as Ingram caught the inadvertent kick and ran it in to give the Panthers a 21-7 lead.
"Finally we got a break," Perrymond said, "and that's what we needed to push us over the edge."
Forest Park's offense was steady at times and spectacular enough. The Panthers (2-5, 1-3) amassed 121yards rushing amongst 220 total yards, overcoming two interceptions by quarterback Regginald Lewis, who as 9-of-17 passing for 99 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 69 yards.
Lewis moved the chains with his feet and put the Panthers in the end zone with his arm. He hit Austin Smith in stride for a 34-yard touchdown pass that gave Forest Park an early lead in the first quarter. On the Panthers' next possession he found Elijah McDaniel for a 46-yard pass that moved the Panthers to the Stockbridge 1-yard line.
Mike Wilson punctuated that 9-play, 79-yard drive with a one-yard leap to put Forest Park up 14-0.
"You've got to give it to Forest Park now," Vandygriff said. "They made some plays and we didn't."
Stockbridge's offense continued its season-long struggles, gaining just 159 total yards.
Quarterback Benn Carr was 3-for-16 passing for 29 yards and two interceptions and missed on four straight passes twice. Stockbridge's second quarterback Antonio Anthony ran for 55 yards on 11 carries, and Thad Rachel had 46 yards on five carries. Dynamic receiver Kevin Burke was held to no catches.
"The thing that we've got to do is we've got to overcome the adversity of bad plays and then we've got to capitalize on them," Vandygriff said. "We can't capitalize on any momentum, and when you do that it puts you in a bad situation."