The big football clash pitting the Liberty County Panthers against the Bradwell Tigers will kick off at 7:30 tonight at Olvey Field.
The Panthers already have a scrimmage and a regular season game under their belts, both of which resulted in losses. The Tigers, meanwhile, held Toombs County Bulldogs out of the end zone in a 0-0 scrimmage two weeks ago.
Liberty County wants to hold on to the Commissioners’ Cup, a trophy awarded to the winning school by the Liberty County Board of Commissioners.
Liberty is 2-0 in the teams’ last two regular-season games. Historically, however, Bradwell has dominated the neighborhood. The Tigers are 11-3 in the series recorded from 1994 to the present. In 1970-71, Bradwell went 2-0 against the old Liberty County High.
In their scrimmage, the Tiger varsity played the first three quarters, and the junior-varsity and ninth-grade teams took the field for the final quarter. During varsity play, the Tigers defense allowed only 61 rushing yards and 13 passing yards. Offensively, the Tigers were 0-for-2 passing and rushed for 66 yards, but also committed three turnovers.
First-year head coach Greg Hill let Marlon Gowins and Duane Johnson take the snaps in the scrimmage. Hill said Johnson will be the starter tonight, but Gowins still could take a few snaps as needed.
Tiger running back Luther Echols led the team in rushing with 43 yards in nine carries in the scrimmage. D’angelo Smith had 14 yards on five carries, Leonard Jackson rushed for eight yards and Perry Madge ran for five yards. Darian Banks and Shaun Maschino added two yards and one yard, respectively.
Senior Isiah Barnes returns tonight to the BI defense after sitting out the scrimmage to heal from injury. Marcus Stewart and C.J. Etse each had four tackles. Maschino had three tackles, while Terrius Crimiel and Lynwood Spaulding each had two tackles.
Hill said tonight is a big night, but not because of local implications.
“It’s the most important game of the season because it is the only one that will be played Aug. 29,” he said. “That is the way I look at it. Each game you go into, you want to win … that’s where I stand on it, and that’s what I’ve been talking to the guys about.”
At Liberty County, sophomore Jaalon Frazier has been the main quarterback in practice all week. This comes after the Panthers had named Walker Franklin, a transfer student from Wayne County, as their starter right after their Aug. 15 scrimmage against South Effingham.
But last Friday morning, hours before Liberty’s season opener, the Panther coaching staff received notice from the Georgia High School Association saying it was looking into Franklin’s eligibility.
Wednesday afternoon, GHSA media specialist Steve Figueroa wrote in an email to the Courier, “Based on the documentation turned into our office from Liberty County, Mr. Gary Phillips (GHSA executive director) has ruled that there was not a bona-fide move, as required by GHSA rules, and therefore the student is not eligible at this time.”
Figueroa did not answer as to who filed the paperwork that initiated the investigation.
The staff has had to quickly remedy the issue. Frazier had performed well throughout the spring and summer and was a potential starter before Franklin arrived.
Panther head coach Kirk Warner said the staff is working with the GHSA to determine a solution to Franklin’s issue. The former Yellow Jacket was described by the coaching staff as a hard-working honor student who quickly formed a bond with the squad. Warner has said Franklin, a senior, was getting looks by scouts and said it would be a shame to see his high-school career end on a sour note.
In addition to Franklin, another starter notably missing last week remains a question mark.
Star all-around athlete Richard LeCounte sat out the game because he was not medically cleared to play. In the Panthers’ Aug. 15 scrimmage, LeCounte tweaked his shoulder while tackling a South Effingham player. Warner said LeCounte’s return would be a game-time decision.
But the Panthers still have a wealth of talent on their roster.
“Our guys will be ready to play,” Warner said.