LaGrange tops BSC, 34-31, in last-minute heartbreaker

Box Score

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A touchdown by Devin Billings with 23 seconds left in the game gave LaGrange College a 34-31 victory over Birmingham-Southern, Saturday afternoon at Thompson Reynolds Stadium on the campus of Vestavia Hills High School in Vestavia Hills, Ala.

LaGrange moves to 1-0 on the season with its first-ever win against a varsity team since beginning its program two years ago, while the Panthers even their record at 1-1 after defeating Campbell on the road last weekend.

The Panthers got on the board first at the 9:10 mark of the first quarter on a two-yard run into the end zone by sophomore quarterback Joe Thigpen. LaGrange tied things up 7-7 seven minutes on a five-yard run from Mario Wallace, and then took a 13-7 lead a little over a minute later on a 63-yard punt return by Wallace.

Senior Tay Walker helped the Panthers tie it up again at the 13:53 mark of the second quarter on a 53-yard pass from Thigpen, and freshman kicker Jared Spooner made the extra point for the 14-13 lead. LaGrange then drove and attempted a 48-yard field goal, which was blocked and recovered by BSC, who made another scoring drive in which Thigpen ran it in for one yard at the 8:22 mark to put BSC up 21-13.

At the 2:14 mark of the second quarter, LaGrange found the end zone again, this time on a one-yard rush by Erik Hardison. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and BSC took a 21-19 lead into the locker room at halftime.

BSC received the ball to start the second half and scored on its first drive as Thigpen made a four-yard dash at the 8:09 mark, and Spooner made his fourth extra point of the game, to put the Panthers up 28-19. LaGrange did not score on its next drive, but BSC did after that, as Spooner connected on a 24-yard field goal at the 14:18 mark of the fourth quarter, pushing the Panther lead to 31-19.

LaGrange’s next drive was short, and BSC’s even shorter as LaGrange’s Justin Pair forced a Thigpen fumble and Jeremy Pickens recovered it for LaGrange at the 26-yard line. Less than a minute later, LaGrange scored again on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Drew Carter to Billings, and made the extra point, bringing the score to 31-26 in favor of BSC.

BSC began another drive, this time ending in an interception by Devin Allison at the LaGrange 17-yard line. LaGrange’s drive was unsuccessful, as was BSC’s, and LaGrange got the ball back for one final chance at the 2:24 mark. Two minutes later, a 15-yard pass from Carter to Billings, and a successful two-point conversion from Carter to Nick Langley gave LaGrange the 34-31 lead. With 23 seconds left on the board, BSC was unable to score again, and LaGrange secured its first varsity win in program history.

Carter threw for a game-high 214 yards on 18-of-36, while Wallace led LaGrange with 80 yards rushing and 278 all-purpose yards. On the defensive side, Kenny Pickens led LaGrange with 6.5 total tackles.

For BSC, Thigpen was 7-of-11 with one interception with 172 yards passing and 92 yards rushing. Sophomore Walter Arrington led the Panthers with 96 yards rushing, and sophomore Victor Allen led the BSC defense with 7.5 total tackles.

BSC is off next weekend but returns to action against Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Rhodes College on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 1 p.m. in Memphis, Tenn.