K.J. Burton is showing what leadership can do for the Chapel Hill team.
The junior quarterback has stepped up for the Panthers the last two weeks to lead them to wins.
On Friday, he accounted for three touchdowns and made a huge defensive play as the Panthers defeated Central 35-14 in a Region 5-AAAA contest.
“I’m trying to be a leader for this team,” Burton said. “I want to provide leadership.”
Burton’s teammates have praised his ability.
“K.J. is doing a good job with the offense,” senior wide receiver/defensive back Tyre Shelton said.
With the score tied at 14-14 at intermission, the Panthers made some adjustments to get their second straight region win.
Chapel Hill improves to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the region and dealt a serious blow to Central’s playoff hopes.
The Panthers scored 21 unanswered second-half points for the win. Central’s last two drives ended with interceptions by Burton and Shelton.
Junior running back Joshua Milfort broke away for a 60-yard scoring run with 3:13 remaining to seemly put the game out of reach at 28-14.
Burton had an interception with 2:50 remaining but the Panthers lost the ball on a fumble.
On the ensuing drive, Shelton returned an interceptions 30 yards for a score as the Panthers took a 35-14 lead.
“Our big-time players made the plays,” Chapel Hill coach Justin DeShon said. “We know who our playmakers are and we are trying to get them the ball. Central played a heck of a game. They are a good football team.”
The Panthers lost their starting linebacker Kevin Burton to a knee injury just before the half.
Sophomore defensive end Rasheed Nuriddin was moved to Burton’s spot and freshman Cameron Beauchamp came end at defensive end.
“Our defensive coaches have done a great job preparing these guys in this type of situation,” DeShon said. “We had some players step up and fill the void. Kevin is a big loss but we had some guys come in a do a great job.”
All Central could manage was a pair of touchdown runs from Malcolm Brown in the first quarter.
Up next for the Panthers is a trip to top-ranked and two-time defending champion Cartersville. The Hurricanes are led by one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects in Trevor Lawrence, who has committed to Clemson.
“We have played good teams all year,” DeShon said. “We will face a bit test on Friday.”