With nothing to play for in terms of playoff hopes, the Sterling Rangers showed they still had plenty of pride Thursday night at Stallworth Stadium.
So, yes, they still had plenty to play for when C.E. King came to town.
Ultimately a gallant effort early did not translate into a win as the visiting Panthers pulled away for a 28-14 win.
“Our kids did exactly what we asked them to do,” Sterling head coach Robert Toomer said. “We asked them to fight, play together and for the underclassmen to play for the seniors. If we can move the ball and sustain drives, it’s a different story.
“You can see what we are going to be, in spurts. When kids do what you ask them to do and play hard, it shows on the field.”
The Panthers got on the board first after starting the game with an onside kick the quickly led to King score and 7-0 win only three-plus minutes into the contest.
The Panthers (6-3, 4-2) built a 14-0 lead after the first quarter before the Rangers decided to get more involved.
Boy did they.
First, the defense got Sterling (1-8, 0-6) on the board after a tackle of a Panther ball carrier led to a scoop and 45-yard score by Omar Huntington with 10:47 left before halftime to cut the Sterling deficit in half.
After another Sterling defensive stop, the Rangers got the ball back and on a quick slant pass, Jacob Landry hit Trinity Oliver who broke past the Panthers defense and sprinted 77 yards to the house to tie the game two minutes later.
Ultimately C.E. King led 21-14 at the break.
The Panthers scored on its first possession after halftime as a muffed punt attempt by Sterling put King in premium field position and a subsequent 28-14 edge.
That score would hold up until the start of the fourth quarter.
Sterling’s defense battled to turn the ball over on downs at times as King would sustain long drives that sometimes resembled a ping pong game off back and forth.
“A defense dictates how long you will be on the field,” Toomer said. “Defense is where you build your base on and start building a program. Eventually our offense will catch up. I know our kids are trying, but we just need to be consistent.”
Another special teams error, this one on a punt return, gave the Panthers another possession deep in Sterling territory.
Sterling was hurt by four turnovers but forced three themselves.
The Rangers defense held, but the offense struggled to capitalize, and the Panthers held on for the win.