The temperature wasn’t the only thing that took a dive in Liberty County on Friday night. The LCHS Panthers ended their season with a loss at home against Evans. The Knights won 24-14 as turnovers plagued Liberty.
"It was the same as last week," Panther coach Kirk Warner said. "The offense turned the ball over twice and the defense had been on the field too long and we got the same results. You let the other team’s offense stay on the field that long and they are bound to make a couple of plays and they did."
Evans got a quick break in its opening offensive drive, getting the ball at the Panthers’ 30-yard line. The Knights started moving the wrong way due to penalties and were forced to kick a 32-yard field goal on fourth down. The ball split the uprights and the visitors went up 3-0.
The Panthers tried to answer quick and placed running back Shadrach Thornton in the Wildcat formation.
He took the snap and hit a wide open Melvin King, but King couldn’t come up with the catch. The Knights held the Panthers to fourth-and-long and Adrien Vakerics came out for the punt.
The senior kicker took the snap and made a bee line for the first down marker before getting knocked out of bounds at midfield. However the offense wasn’t able to capitalize on the first down. The Panthers were pushed back by a penalty and a huge tackle for loss by the Knights defense.
In the second quarter, Panther defender Tommy Williams nearly intercepted a pass from Evans quarterback Glenn Cassedy. The Knights lined up for another field goal attempt but it was wide left.
On the Panthers’ next drive, quarterback Matt Desbiens faked a handoff to Thornton and ran the ball for a first down. Thornton took the next snap and moved the ball for another first before the Knights stopped the run and the Panthers faced a third down.
Thornton took the snap, stepped to his left and tossed the ball to Tavoris Lewis for a 47-yard touchdown. The Panthers kicked the extra point and took a 7-3 lead.
Liberty County extended the lead when Thornton completed a pass to Jarrett Rivers and the ball was at the Knights’ 14-yard line. Thornton found Lewis again two plays later, this time in the corner of the end zone, for the score.
The Knights took over at their own 27-yard line and Cassedy launched the ball to Trevor Foreman. Foreman made the catch, broke three tackles and brought the ball to the Panthers’ 14-yard line. Cassedy then hit Foreman in the end zone.
The Panthers still led 14-10 at the half.But in the second half the Panthers’ offense shut down and Evans used the opportunity to pull ahead.
With the Panthers stopping the run, the Knights went to the pass. But Williams and King blocked and tipped several passes while Demetrick Mothershed and Charles Hall rushed Cassedy and garnered a few sacks. This kept the Knights out of scoring position in the third quarter.
Yet the Panthers also squandered a few opportunities, with several passes slipping out of the hands of receivers hands and players slipping to the turf before the ball got to them.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Liberty County stopped Evans on fourth down, giving the Panthers the ball at their own 31. Liberty couldn’t move the ball, however.
Neither could Evans.
The Panthers’ defense kept the Knights in check and Liberty took over on offense at its 44-yard line, but a Thornton fumble gave the ball back to Evans. This time the Knights took advantage when Cassedy connected with Foreman on third down for a 30-yard touchdown.
Liberty turned the ball over on its next offensive series to set up Evans’ final score.
It was a disappointing end to the season for the Panthers, who finished 2-8 overall and 1-4 in Region 2A-AAAA.
Warner said he told his players he was a bit disappointed with the season.
"But I wasn’t disappointed in them because I think the effort was there," he said. "There were a few things out of their control that cost us the opportunity to gel as a team. We had two or three family deaths and tons and tons of injuries and we weren’t that deep to begin with. When you lose starters to injuries, others have to step up and they just weren’t there yet."