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Field position battle does in Panthers in loss to Pierce
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The Liberty County Panthers liked the position they were in at the half against Pierce County. Their field position in the second half, though, dictated a different outcome.

Not a single play was snapped on Pierce County’s side of the 50-yard line in the final 24 minutes, as the Bears scored 35 points in a decisive third quarter en route to a 49-6 win Friday night at Donell Woods Stadium.

Liberty, 0-3, will visit No. 2-ranked Calvary Day in the Region 3-AAA opener September 15. The first order of business for Tony Glazer is get his Panthers to avoid making the kind of miscues that lead to defeat, especially against a team the caliber of Calvary Day.

“We’ve got to get better at what we do and one thing we have to get better at is not making mistakes,” he said. “We need to put our best game forward and push the game into the fourth quarter.”

The Cavaliers, 3-0, are coming off a 41-10 win over Charlotte (N.C.) Christian and have outscored their opponents 154-24.

Tennessee commit Jake Merklinger has thrown for 704 yards and nine touchdowns. Tight end Michael Smith, a four-star prospect, has committed to South Carolina and has four touchdown catches this season. Junior wide receiver Edward Coleman and defensive lineman Walter Mathis are listed as a three-star recruits.

“They have size, they have speed,” Glazer said of the Cavs. “They have size on both lines. They look like a small level college team.”

Glazer can point to a number of mistakes, especially in the third quarter, that turned what was a close game into a lopsided score.

The Panthers ran 10 plays in Pierce territory in the first half as three consecutive drives crossed midfield. They pulled within 14-6 on Carlos Singelton’s 2-yard touchdown run. Singleton escaping an all-out Bears blitz, hit Jaden Hurd for 41 yards to set up the score.

“We were right where we wanted to be,” Glazer said. “We felt like we had momentum.”

After giving up touchdowns on the first two Bears possessions, the Panthers defense held Pierce scoreless for the rest of the first half. Glazer pointed out the total yardage difference between the two teams at intermission was only 10 yards.

But the Panthers’ field position in the second half kept them bottled up. Their average starting field position on their first four second-half possessions was their own 16-yard line. By very stark contrast, Pierce’s average starting field position was the Panthers 26.

“We couldn’t get out of our own way,” Glazer said. “The second half was a different ball game.”

Marquez Leggett slipped through a handful of Panthers tacklers for a 34-yard touchdown run on the Bears’ first snap of the second half. Jaeveon Williams scored from 11 yards out to cap a five-play, 40-yard drive.

Caden Mcgatha capped the second of two one-play scoring drives. A fumble recovery set up the Bears at the Panthers 5, and McGatha hit Jah Evans on a fade on the next play, extending the lead to 35-6.

The Pierce defense got into the act for the next two scores, recovering a Panthers fumble in the end zone and Carson Sloan made a leaping snare of Singleton’s pass, scoring from 11 yards out for the final score.

“We talked about not making mistakes against Pierce County, because a team like Pierce County is going to punish you,” Glazer said, “and that’s exactly what happened.”

The Bears, who opened the fourth quarter taking over at Liberty’s 16 on a fumble, incurred six delay of game penalties in an attempt to not score again.

Singleton was 8-of-17 for 132 yards, 129 coming in the first half. But Pierce’s defense held the Panthers to -32 yards rushing, racking up 16 tackles for losses.

The Bears offense amassed 375 yards total, with 250 coming on the ground. Mcgatha was 9-of-14 for 125 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with Joe Drew on scoring strikes of 30 and 46 yards in the first quarter.

Pierce, 3-0, the No. 3-ranked in Class AA will host Charlton County on September 15.

Glazer and his staff are working on getting the Panthers to meet the challenge the Cavaliers present – and on making themselves a tougher foe.

“We have to focus on making Liberty County better,” he said. “We say, ‘make somebody beat Liberty County, not let Liberty County beat Liberty County.’”


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