RALEIGH — Standout quarterback Braxton Berrios could only stand on the sideline on crutches and watch in the second half as Panther Creek rallied for a 34-21 victory over his top-ranked Leesville Road team on Friday night in a non-conference battle of ranked teams.
Berrios, one of the top players in the state and a national recruiting target, rushed for 95 yards in the first half as the Pride (3-1) built an 18-7 lead. But Berrios was injured in the final minute of the first half on a run that lost 3 yards – swarmed under by several Panther Creek players.
Berrios suffered an injury to his left foot, Pride coach Chad Smothers said.
“I don’t know anything about the injury other than his foot got hurt tonight,” Smothers said. “When he goes to the doctor (Saturday), we’ll know more. We’re hopeful it isn’t something that keeps him out for a long time. But if however it does, we’ve got seven football games left regular-season-wise. We are planning on pulling our bootstraps up and getting after it and playing football. We don’t have any choice to do anything else.
“He walked off the field, so that is a good sign. We conferred with the doctors, and it was the best decision for him not to play in the second half. We’ll know more when he has X-rays tomorrow.”
With the Leesville Road offense struggling in the second half without Berrios, who was averaging 154 yards rushing in the Pride’s three victories, Panther Creek’s Dorrel McClain took over.
McClain, held to 15 yards rushing in the first half, erupted for 199 yards on the ground in the second half. His 1-yard touchdown plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter and a two-point conversion pass put the Catamounts up 21-18.
McClain tacked on a 90-yard burst two minutes later to give Panther Creek (3-1) a 28-18 lead.
“They were doing some really good things on defense (in the first half) to bottle him up,” Panther Creek coach Sean Crocker said. “We made some adjustments at halftime and they worked out for us and Dorrel really responded.
“With Braxton going out, he’s a difference-maker over there, their offense was not the same. They struggled a little bit more. But I think our offense just came out with more intensity. We challenged them at halftime.”
McClain finished with 214 yards rushing and all five Panther Creek touchdowns – scoring on runs of 7, 4, 1, 90 and 7 yards. Catamounts quarterback Brendan Magner passed for 201 yards, completing 12 of 22 passes without an interception.
Leesville Road was plagued by penalties, including numerous false starts, and turned over the ball on a fumble and interception in the second half – when they were held to three points without Berrios.
“We have to play better as a football team, that’s the bottom line,” Smothers said. “We have to play better offensively. We’ve got to play better defensively. Braxton is a special player … (but) we’ve got enough people on our football team to get it done.
“The credit goes to Panther Creek. They came out and they played well and did a great job. Their running back ran really hard. We had plenty of opportunities on third down to get off the field. We just didn’t make plays on third down.”
The victory sends Panther Creek, ranked No. 14 in The News & Observer poll, into conference play with a big dose of confidence.
“It was a big win,” Crocker said. “Leesville is one of the programs in our area if not the state. It puts us with a lot of momentum going into conference play next week. It gives our team just that much more confidence that if we stick with the game plan and we stick with it, we can rise up.”
For Leesville Road, its season will depend on how they adjust to the injury to Berrios, regardless of how long he is sidelined.