Overstreet's record-setting debut saddles Panthers with season-ending setback

Senior quarterback Zack Clifford (left) completes a hand off to senior running back Brian Mann during the first half of the Panthers’ 2019 season-opening victory over Greensboro (North Carolina) College in September.

EMORY — Grayson Overstreet, who started the season at linebacker, made his debut in the offensive backfield Saturday and played an integral role in helping Emory & Henry College achieve its first winning season since 2016 with a 59-36 triumph over Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) football rival Ferrum College at Fred Self Stadium.

The contest was the fourth Crooked Road Classic and the season finale for both teams.

Each team has won twice since the long-standing series, which began in 1985, Ferrum’s inaugural season of NCAA Division III football, was renamed the Crooked Road Classic.

Emory & Henry’s win is its 24th in 35 games played in the overall series.

The Wasps and the Panthers were non-conference regular-season foes in 32 of those games; they were postseason rivals once – in 1987 – and have been ODAC opponents since last year.

In three of those regular-season games, all wins by Emory & Henry, the Wasps scored 50 or more points. In the playoff game, which was staged at Victory Stadium in Roanoke, the Wasps were a point shy of reaching the 50-point mark.

Overstreet, a transfer from the University of Richmond, which competes in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly Division I-AA, set the Virginia High School League’s record for career rushing yards during his senior year at Class 3 Staunton River.

Overstreet’s 322 rushing yards on 34 carries establishes new program and conference standards. He ran for two touchdowns, one covering 67 yards, the other covering 19 yards.

Overstreet accounted for 93 percent of his team’s 347 rushing yards. He averaged 9.5 yards-per-carry.

Only three other players carried the ball for the Wasps in the victory.

It was Emory & Henry’s Senior Day and two of the Wasps’ 18 seniors are former Franklin County prep performers: offensive lineman Tyler Weterrings, an all-conference player each of the past two years, and tight end Elijah Vieira.

Weterrings made his first college start against the Panthers in the inaugural Crooked Road Classic in 2016, won by Ferrum in its home stadium, 39-38. Among his blocking assignments that day was a one-on-one match-up against former Ferrum standout defender Alveno Matthews, a former Franklin County prep star.

The Wasps (6-2 in the ODAC, 7-3 overall) surpassed the 50-point mark for the third time this season and secured third place in the final conference standings after being picked to finish sixth in the nine-team league in preseason.

Emory & Henry shut out Ferrum, 21-0, in then first quarter, and 17-0 in the third period to turn a 35-15 lead at intermission into a 52-15 advantage heading into the final frame.

The Panthers (3-5 in the ODAC, 4-6 overall) suffered their first losing season since 2015 and the first of Rob Grande’s four-year term as head coach.

Ferrum has ended each of its last two campaigns with losses.

Because its open date was in the season’s first playing date (Sept. 7), Ferrum was forced to play 10 straight weeks of football with no break.

That proved to be a challenge as Ferrum lost three games in a row, two of which were at home, following a season-opening triumph.

The Panthers, who were plagued by injuries throughout the campaign, surrendered 53 points in a loss to conference champion Bridgewater College to fall to 2-4. They were 3-5 after splitting consecutive home games against Southern Virginia University (win) and Shenandoah University (loss), then split consecutive road outings against Hampden-Sydney College (win) and Emory & Henry (loss).

Star running back Brian Mann, an All-American as a junior when he led the ODAC in rushing and a 2019 preseason All-American, was out of the line-up for 4 1/2 games after sustaining a knee injury in the second quarter of a loss to conference rival Washington and Lee University.

Mann returned to the line-up against Hampden-Sydney and the rushing yardage he accumulated in that win, plus what he totaled Saturday enabled him to break the 5,000-yard mark in career rushing.

Mann is Ferrum’s all-time rushing leader; he broke the program’s single-season mark in his freshman, sophomore and junior campaigns by surpassing the 1,400 mark as a freshman, the 1,500 mark a sophomore and the 1,600 mark last year.

Mann entered the season needing 386 yards to reach 5,000. He entered Saturday’s game needing 35 to reach the milestone and achieved it by rushing for 48 yards on 20 carries.

Mann, who scored the Panthers’ final touchdown of the season on a one-yard run with 2:48 remaining, finishes his career with 5,013 rushing yards.

Senior quarterback Zack Clifford, who made his first college appearance as a sophomore in a victory over Emory & Henry, was 9 of 31 for 181 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his final college game, his 28th start behind center.

Clifford, who ranks first in program history in passing yardage, needed 128 yards to surpass the 5,000-yard mark for his career. He finished it with 5,053 yards.

The Wasps, who overcame five turnovers and 13 penalties (for 153 yards) in the victory, scored the game’s first 28 points and led by 37 points at the 5:06 mark of the third period.

Emory & Henry, which produced 570 offensive yards on 80 plays, scored three touchdowns via the rush, four via the pass and one on return of two yards following a blocked punt. Also, the Wasps converted a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter.

Clifford hit freshman receiver Ryan Beidleman with a 75-yard scoring pass with 4:50 left in the second stanza and defender Taylor Brown returned a fumble 48 yards for the Panthers’ second score three minutes later.

But the Panthers, who committed three turnovers, didn’t score again until the 11:05 mark of the final frame when Clifford found the end zone from three yards to finish a two-play, 15-yard march.

Clifford’s second scoring strike covering 18 yards was delivered to veteran receiver Quentin Wallace with 9:11 left and finished a second, short-field drive of 18 yards in two plays.

Emory & Henry led by 30 points, 59-29, when Mann finished the scoring. His touchdown run completed a five-play, 60-yard drive.

Emory and Henry quarterback Hunter Taylor was 15 of 29 passing for 225 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Receiver Gunner Griffith caught six passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

Taylor was responsible for all five of his team’s turnovers. Besides his two interceptions, he fumbled twice.

The Wasps’ defense forced seven punts and surrendered 239 offensive yards.

Brown, who led the Panthers with 11 tackles, seven of which were solo stops, recovered two fumbles, while Brandon Scott, Kendall Bell and Adam Keiser each intercepted a pass.

Ivan Phillips paced the Wasps with nine tackles.

The Wasps held an advantage of 10 1/2 minutes in time of possession: 35:15 to 24:45.

Ferrum surpassed the 30-point mark for the sixth time this season. The Panthers were 4-2 in those games.

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