It may not be their first state playoff game, but it is the first time Liberty County has hosted the first round game.
The Panthers will take on Upson-Lee at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Donell Woods Stadium.
“Hosting a playoff game was one of our goals coming into this season,” Panther offensive coordinator Ryan Glazer said. “Anytime you can play at home it’s an advantage as far as not having to travel.”
Upson-Lee is sporting an 8-2 overall and 4-2 Region 2-AAAA mark and is the second seed. The Knights are ranked 16th in their classification while the Panthers are ranked 13th. Liberty is also higher ranked in the state, coming in at 75th to the Knights 87th. The Panthers are the two seed of Region 3-AAAA and finished the regular season at 7-3 overall and 3-1 in the region.
Glazer said the Knights are much like Burke County and Thomson in their style of play.
“They are athletic, fast and physical,” he said. “Defensively, they flow to the ball and make plays.”
Glazer added Upson-Lee’s defensive tackle and end, David Marshall, an Auburn commit, makes a lot of plays in the backfield.
But the Panthers have a slew of talent as well.
Leading the ground game is Wake Forest commit, last year’s Coastal Courier/Mike Reed Chevrolet Player of the Year and three-time Player of the Week for this season to date, Jacquez Williams.
The senior missed one game to a leg injury, but still amassed 1,167 yards, with five 100-plus yard games and 11 touchdowns. Williams is also third in reception yards with 22 catches for 421 yards and four touchdowns.
Juniors Jaalon Frazier and Richard LeCounte have shared quarterback duties, with Frazier earning the starting job and LeCounte coming in for wildcat snaps. Frazier is 75 of 153 for 1,330 passing yards and 12 touchdowns.
LeCounte is 14 of 27 for 336 yards and four touchdowns. LeCounte is second in rushing with 657 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Elisha Polite has 399 yards and four touchdowns as well.
Juniors Kevin Malwah and Frazier round out the triple-digit rushers with 152 and 123 yards, respectively. LeCounte and Polite are the top two in receptions yards at 500 and 422, respectively, and nine combined touchdowns.
Defensively, LeCounte leads the team in tackles with 82. Senior Jacari Roberts is hot on his trail with 65 and Anthony Golden, a junior, has 63. Jeremiah Gilbert leads the Panthers in sacks with five for 42 yards lost. Roberts and sophomore Traveon Freeman both have three sacks each.