Lanett comes out of Rams Stadium with 25-21 win over Valley

Published 12:18 am Saturday, August 24, 2019

VALLEY — The Lanett Panthers overcame multiple turnovers and a furious Valley comeback attempt in the fourth quarter to win the first game of the season 25-21.

“We were up and down all night,” Lanett head football coach Clifford Story, Jr. said. “We fought through some adversity, we were able to make plays when they needed to be made and found a way to win at the end.”

It appeared the weather and the anticipation that came with the big game affected play early in the first half.

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In the raining conditions and the threat of a lightning storm passing over the area, Valley fumbled a snap into its end zone for a safety in the first two minutes of the game.

“We have a young team, and we played like a young team tonight,” Valley head football coach Buster Daniel said. “We made a tremendous amount of mistakes, which you can’t do against a good football team, and we knew they were a good football team coming in, they have one of the best players in the state over there. You make mistake after mistake after mistake, they’re going to capitalize and they did. We just didn’t play very well.”

Lanett had a total of four turnovers by the early period of the second quarter. The group of turnovers was perhaps highlighted by a fumble in the end zone for a touchback by Panthers senior quarterback Kristian Story, who scrambled 60 yards on the play.

“I’ve played baseball all my life, so my dad always taught me to have a short memory,” Kristian Story said. “In baseball, you have to have a short memory, in life, you have to have a short memory. [Tonight,] I just had to have a short memory, keep pushing through the game and we won.”

The Valley student section directed “overrated” chants Kristian Story’s way early in the game as an attempt to throw off the University of Alabama commit. The chants began to quiet when Story scrambled into the end zone to give the Panthers their first lead of the game with 3:50 remaining in the first half.

“A lot of people might think I’m overrated, but I don’t care,” Kristian Story said with a smile in a playful tone. “I know what I’m about, so they can do all of that talking.”

Coach Story said that he expected the chants to come from opposing student sections all season because Kristian is committed to the SEC powerhouse. Story also had an interception on the night on the first play of the second quarter.

Before the end of the first half, Lanett junior tight end Trey Abner caught his first touchdown pass of the season. Throughout the night, Kristian Story and Abner began to develop a rhythm, earning first down after first down for the Panthers.

“I knew we needed those first downs to keep the possession going to get another play or score a touchdown,” Abner said.

Abner’s touchdown gave Lanett an 18-7 lead at the half.

Near the end of the first half, Valley sophomore running back B.J. Baker was ejected from the game after picking up two personal fouls on the field.

“That’s just making bad decisions on the field,” Daniel said. “He had a penalty, he pushed a kid and then [the officials said] he kicked the [penalty] flag … he’s got to make better decisions.”

Valley showed different looks in the shotgun formation all night behind center.

With 51 seconds to go in the first quarter, Valley sophomore wide receiver K.D. Hutchinson got the Rams on the board with a long touchdown run on a direct snap. Baker attempted a fake punt in the first quarter, and Hutchinson was in the wildcat again to hand the ball off to Dalton Dunn for the Rams’ last touchdown of the night with 4:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Hutchinson also scored Valley’s second touchdown of the night, with an 85-yard kickoff return with 1:11 remaining in the third quarter. Coach Story tipped his hat off to Hutchinson after the game, calling him a great player. Daniel echoed Story’s comments after the game.

“He’s playing both sides of the ball for almost the entire game, he’s going to get tired,” Daniel said. “I thought he stepped up and pulled through in the end when he was tired and he still made plays for us. He had a kickoff return, a big run, he’s just a good player.”

Valley’s last chance to score came with  under two minutes to play, when Valley junior quarterback Will Kennedy threw an interception to Lanett junior Kadarius Zackery.

Friday marked the first night that the press box in Rams Stadium operated under the name of the Heston Yates Press Box, an ode to the longtime voice of the Rams who died this past summer.

After the Lanett band made a spirited halftime performance in various colored t-shirts, Valley’s band debuted its 2019 show that is dedicated to the local first responders. Concession stands in the stadium closed during halftime for the fans’ attention to be directed to the responders who received a standing ovation on the field after the performance.

Next week, Valley will head on the road to face 7A Smiths Station, and Lanett returns home to host crosstown-rival LaFayette.