By the time you pronounce Dalton Ponchillia’s name, he’s off to another touchdown for Franklin Road Academy.
Friday at Ezell-Harding, the senior caught nine passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns. That’s an average of 23 yards per catch and consistent with the big-play performer he’s been all season.
His touchdowns – from senior quarterback Matt Hissong – went for 29 and 39 yards, the first of which came when he made a leaping catch in the end zone in a wild 49-28 victory that kept FRA unbeaten in league play (2-0) and improved its overall mark to 4-3, with a region homecoming game Friday against Zion Christian up next.
It’s not just the wide receiver/defensive back’s offensive play that makes the Panthers click, although he is the leading receiver in Nashville with 41 receptions, good for 692 yards and seven touchdowns.
He had two interceptions Friday, one of which he returned for a 16-yard touchdown.
He also kicks extra points and was a perfect 6-of-6 Friday. All told, he scored 24 points – almost half of his team’s total.
“The coaches made some great calls, and I just managed to get open, and Matt throws a perfect ball,” Ponchillia said. “The blocking has been great, and that’s been a real key to our success.
“On the [touchdown off the] interception, [linebacker] Mingus Mason made a great play, putting pressure on the quarterback, and the pass just popped up and came right to me, gave me a gift.”
The quick score snapped a 28-28 tie and propelled the Panthers to a 28-point blitz in the fourth quarter.
“Dalton is one of those players who always seems to be in the right place at the right time,” first-year coach Bill Whittemore said. “He plays goalie in soccer, so he has that ability to adjust and get to the ball quickly. He and Matt have great communication.”
Whittemore, a former Mr. Football winner at Brentwood High and all-conference star quarterback at Kansas, was pleased with his team’s resiliency.
“We made some mistakes early, we lost a 21-14 halftime lead to go behind 28-21, but our players didn’t quit, never got discouraged,” he said. “They stayed with it, [which is] something I like about this team. And we finished strong with the 28-point fourth quarter.”
Hissong was 11-for-14 for 237 yards and raised his season total to 926 passing yards. He overcame a pick-six when Dorian Banks’ 82-yard interception return for a touchdown tied the game at 14-14 late in the second quarter.
“We just got our signals crossed, an error in communication” the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Hissong said. “But we were able to come through it, Dalton and all our receivers came through.
“We came back right after they tied the game with a touchdown and got the momentum back.”
For a while, Banks, a freshman, kept the Eagles in the game. He scored all four of his team’s touchdowns at Ezell’s homecoming. His interception return just three plays after he scored on a nine-yard run. Banks also added a three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, then a 62-yard run which gave the Eagles their last lead, 28-21.
Ezell fell to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the region and will host Davidson Academy Friday in another region clash as they try to stay in the race.
• McGavock likely saved its season Friday when it rallied for a 26-20 overtime win over Overton.
The Raiders trailed 20-13 in the final quarter, but quarterback DeAnthony Patrick scored the winning touchdown in overtime. Patrick accounted for 321 yards of total offense – he completed 17-of-30 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 125 yards.
The Raiders pulled back into contention in the District 12-AAA race at 2-2 (3-4 overall) with a duel at Glencliff set for Friday. Overton fell to 3-2 (4-4 overall) with a showdown at rival Antioch on Friday.
• The District 11-AAA volleyball tournament will be Tuesday and Wednesday at Franklin High, where Brentwood, two-time defending AAA state champ Ravenwood and Independence are seeded 1-2-3, respectively. Two matches are Tuesday, with the semifinals scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday followed by finals.
The District 11-A/AA volleyball tournament opens Tuesday at Christ Presbyterian Academy, where CPA, Hume-Fogg and Lipscomb are seeded 1-2-3, respectively. Finals are Thursday.