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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Panthers begin Harper era Saturday

Friday, September 2, 2011

By STEVEN MARSH - Sports Editor

FERRUM -- It seems as if football rival Emory & Henry College will always be a focal-point opponent for Ferrum College in general and first-year Panthers sideline boss David Harper in particular.

In 1984, Harper, then a freshman at Ferrum, played his first college football game, albeit a scrimmage contest, against the Wasps.

"I remember traveling on an old yellow school bus up Shooting Creek to get there,' Harper recalled Wednesday. "I guess I've come full circle.'

Saturday, the transportation to E&H will likely be more comfortable, but it will be another watershed game for Harper, who makes his debut as Ferrum's head coach.

Harper will attempt to become only the second of Ferrum's six head coaches to win his first game at the helm.

Sam Webb, Ferrum's first head coach and Dave Davis, the man Harper succeeds, were defeated in their openers, while Hank Norton played each of his first two games as Ferrum's head coach to a tie.

To date, only Lewis Lane, the Panthers' coach for one season, was victorious in his debut.

For Harper to match Lane's accomplishment, Ferrum will have to defeat an E&H squad it hasn't conquered since a 2005 visit to the Wasps' home stadium.

E&H leads the series, 17-9.

"I've been so focused on us (Ferrum), who we are and who we're trying to be that we talked about Emory very little,' said Harper, one of four alumni head coaches at Ferrum. "I don't know if that's good or bad, but I do know that if you don't take care of yourself, you can't do anything else in life.'

At least Harper and Ferrum will not have to worry about Caleb Jennings -- the Wasps' All-America running back has completed his playing eligibility.

E&H, which was tabbed to finish fifth in a preseason coaches' poll in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) has won four games in a row in this series (2007-2010) and Jennings was a factor in each of the last two contests -- he scored the winning TD in each.

A year ago, Jennings recovered a fumble in the end zone by quarterback Dustin Beck in a 23-17 double-overtime triumph. He gained 425 yards rushing in those games.

All 40 of the points scored in last year's game were tallied in fourth quarter and the two overtime stanzas.

Former Franklin County standout Tae Gilbert makes his Panthers' debut Saturday after transferring from Concord.

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