SAVANNAH, GA -- It took some extra football for the Liberty County Panthers to snag their first 2021 season win in their first region game, defeating the Johnson Atomsmashers 22-20 in an overtime battle.
The visiting Panthers made the trip to Savannah where they met the Atomsmashers for a Region 3-3A contest at Islands Stadium.
They got on the scoreboard first after Carlos Singleton found Paul Brown running free on a post route, leading the receiver to go to the endzone untouched.
Their PAT was blocked.
After going scoreless in the first quarter, the Atomsmashers took the lead at the beginning of the second after they marched to the goal line and handed the ball off to Nolan Bacon.
They followed the touchdown by going for two, converting on a Keon Edwards pass to Ted Hurst to take an 8-6 lead with 11:15 left in the second quarter.
With two minutes left in the first half, Marques Johnson broke out the backfield and reaching paydirt on a 51-yard rush for the Panthers to grab a 14-8 lead at the break after halting the Smashers final drive near midfield.
No scores were made in the third quarter.
The game began to get interesting within the final three minutes of the game when the Atomsmashers knotted the game at 14 after making their way inside the Panthers’ 10-yard line.
Edwards called his own number, rushing to the endzone as the Atomsmashers were only inches away.
The Panthers would take over from their own 29 in hopes of nabbing the final lead with only a couple minutes left in the game.
But it would be stymied once Singleton checked out of the game due to his helmet coming off in the previous play.
Head Coach Kirk Warner subbed in Christopher Garrett, who would look near the Atomsmashers’ sideline and be picked off by Anthony Cooper.
Holding the final possession of regulation the Atomsmashers failed to get the game-clinching score with Edwards throwing an interception to Marques Johnson.
In overtime, the Atomsmashers got the ball first at the 25, where it only took three plays to score.
On the first play, Amarion Scott broke for a 24-yard run and two plays later, he got in the endzone, taking a 20-14 lead after the Atomsmashers failed on the two-point conversion.
The Panthers got the ball on the 25 and had a big first play of their own with Singleton connecting with Brown for a hard-earned 24-yards.
On the next play, Mason Diaz scored on a 1-yard run, which was followed by Singleton quarterback sneaking for the two-point conversion, securing the win.
“A win’s a win,” Warner said after the game. “There’s no such thing as an ugly win but we didn’t play as well as we’re capable of but it’s good to pull out a win when you don’t play your best. That’s a good sign. We knew Johnson was a good team coming in. They had us on our wheels for a while. We bent, but didn’t break. We made one more play than them at the end. We didn’t play the cleanest game, but the heart was there. I take my hat off to my kids.”
The Panthers are now 1-2 (1-0) and will host Southeast Bulloch in another region game.
“We got to go back to work on Monday and work on us to get ready for next week’s opponent Southeast Bulloch at home,” Warner said.