Overcoming rain, mud and cold temperatures, the Pleasure Ridge Park High School football team finished its first undefeated regular season in nearly 30 years.
Senior quarterback Spencer Sumpter rushed for two touchdowns and the defense made a key stop in the final minutes to lift the host Panthers to a 15-14 victory over Central on Friday.
PRP — No. 10 in the Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings — finished a regular season with a 10-0 record for the first time since 1984.
“It’s a great feeling,” Panthers coach Jason Hiser said. “There have been some good football teams at PRP before me and since I’ve been here, but there’s a reason it’s been almost 30 years since it’s happened. It’s tough for a football team to go 10 weeks and stay consistent and not get a big head when you’re winning big.”
The Panthers will enter next week’s playoffs as one of two undefeated teams in Class 6-A, joining No. 1 Trinity, which is 8-0 entering today’s game at Cincinnati Moeller. PRP will open the playoffs at home on Friday against Boone County (1-9).
Central (8-2) will open the playoffs at home on Friday against Casey County, trying to win its third straight Class 3-A championship and fifth in six years.
The Yellowjackets managed just 160 total yards against PRP and fumbled 10 times, losing two of them. Eight of the fumbles came in the first half as quarterback Tae’Shawn Gibbs struggled to handle the wet and muddy football.
“You can’t win when you fumble the ball and can’t get the snap in the first half,” Central coach Ty Scroggins said. “The quarterback has to sit in there, and the center has to do his job no matter what the weather is. There’s no excuse.”
Sumpter’s 27-yard touchdown run and Nick West’s two-point conversion run gave PRP an 8-0 lead at the 4:27 mark of the first quarter.
Averaging 51.8 points per game, PRP was unable to throw the ball as much as it wanted because of the wet conditions. Sumpter finished 7 of 16 for 101 yards.
“It’s definitely frustrating when we’re used to slinging the ball around 50 or 60 times a game and having to rely on our run game,” Sumpter said. “But we got the job done and pulled out the victory.”
Central linebacker Demontre Boyd stripped the ball from PRP running back Delvon Dunn and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown with 9:43 left in the first half. Deris Cox added the two-point conversion run to tie the score at 8.
After a turnover gave PRP the ball at the Central 5, Sumpter scored from 1 yard out to give the Panthers a 15-8 lead with 1:40 left in the first half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Central put together a 16-play, 76-yard drive to pull within one point. Cox capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run that made it 15-14 with 2:29 remaining, and Scroggins chose to go for the win and gave the ball to Cox on the two-point try.
But PRP’s Joseph Lewis — in the wrong position — was there to make the stop and preserve the Panthers’ lead.
“Sometimes you just have to let them play football,” Hiser said. “I thought they were going to come back to the sweep, and I was telling (Brown) to get outside. He just goes in there and blitzes, which he wasn’t supposed to, but he made a play.”
Central got the ball back with 1:15 remaining but couldn’t manage a first down.
Gibbs led the Yellowjackets with 66 yards on 21 carries. Cox added 41 yards on 19 attempts.
Sumpter said he was confident in his team’s defense on the decisive two-point attempt.
“I knew we were going to stop them,” he said. “Our defense was big all night. They won the game for us.”
PRP – Spencer Sumpter 27 run (Nick West run); C – Demontre Boyd 40 fumble return (Deris Cox run); PRP – Sumpter 1 run (West kick); C – Cox 5 run (run failed).