BY O.J. EARLY
CUMBERLAND GAP -- Mental miscues, mistakes and penalties early in a game will likely hurt any team. Add in the mix that the team committing the mistakes is young, and the opposing team has a potent, strike-at-will offense, and you have a formula for a long night.
The South Greene Rebels, making the long journey to Cumberland Gap Friday night, felt the impact of that recipe, and came away on the short end of 60-6 loss.
"We didn't get off the bus tonight," said South Greene head coach Shawn Jones, who's Rebels (0-3, 0-1) made their season debut Friday in the Blue Ridge Athletic Conference. "It will be fixed next week."
After a holding call against the Rebels, followed up by back-to-back false starts by South Greene, the Panthers brought down freshman signal-caller Justin Casteel in the Rebels own endzone, putting the Panthers up 2-0 with 10:42 to go.
It took the Panthers just over two minutes to strike. After using a combination of runs and passes, senior Cumberland Gap quarterback Blake Franklin fired a five yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Estes. The Panthers went for two, got it, and went up 10-0 with 8:41 left to play in the first quarter.
A three-and-out by South Greene set the Rebels up for a punt. But a bad snap to South Greene's Lucas Riddle resulted in Cumberland Gap coming up with another safety, giving the Panthers a 12-0 lead with 7:05 to play in the first.
Cumberland-Gap took over after a 17 yard punt return by Dylan Gambrel. The Panthers, again mixing up the calls with runs and passes, capped off an 8-play drive with a 6 yard touchdown run by Jordan Teague. The PAT was good giving Cumberland-Gap a 19-0 lead with 5:02 to play in opening quarter.
The Rebels responded, showing glimmers of hope with the passing game. Casteel, making his first ever high school start at quarterback, connected on three straight passes to Tim Lightfoot. But South Greene couldn't do much more and was forced to punt. Disaster hit the Rebels as Panther Wesley Nance blocked the punt, and Cumberland Gap's Brandon Bailey raced 31 yards to score, pushing the Panther lead to 26-0 after a successful PAT to end the first quarter.
Cumberland Gap opened the second quarter in style, reaching the endzone in three plays, the final play a 10 yard TD run by Jordan Teague. The PAT was through the uprights and the Panthers lead was 33-0 with 11:08 to go in the first half.
South Greene's Preston Shuffler gave Rebel fans something to cheer about with a 40 yard kickoff return near the start of the second quarter. But the run didn't result in much, as Casteel was picked off on third down. Cumberland Gap went to the ground at the point, gashing the Rebel defense with runs. Nance capped off the drive with a 19 yard touchdown run with 6:43 left to play, giving the Panthers a comfortable 40-0 lead after the PAT.
But South Greene refused to be shut out. On the first play from scrimmage, Lightfoot galloped 69 yards into the endzone for a touchdown. The PAT failed, and the score stood at 40-6 with 5:04 left in the half.
The Panthers responded with a four play drive, ending with Franklin connecting with Jeremiah Lorens for a touchdown strike. The Panthers failed on a two-point conversion, making the new score 46-6 with 5:04 to play in the first half.
Cumberland Gap would go on to take on another score in the first half, pounding the ball with runs of 15, 20, 17 and 24. The final run was a touchdown by Nance. The PAT was good, leaving the halftime score at 53-6 CumberlandGap.
Because of the score, the clock continued to run in the second half, a result of the mercy rule. Cumberland Gap found the endzone a final time in the second half, ending a 10 play, 10:30 second drive on a four yard run by Rodney Campbell.
Cumberland Gap racked up more than 400 yards of offense in the victory. South Greene had a little more than 100 yards of total offense.
South Greene is set to take on North Greene next week in the "Civil War" at the Huskies Field.