After shutting out Statesboro 29-0 two weeks ago, the Liberty County Panthers repeated the performance at Richmond Hill, stifling the Wildcats 13-0 in their homecoming game Friday. This week, the Liberty team had one day less to prepare for their second region game as they host Brunswick in their only Thursday night game of the season. The game starts at 7 p.m. at Donell Woods Stadium.
The Panthers are 2-3 overall and 1-0 in Region 2A-AAAA. The Pirates are 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the region coming into Thursday’s match.
The key difference in the past two games is the apparent re-ignition of a strong Panther defense that led them to a second post-season game last year.
The same defense picked apart the Blue Devils’ running game and capitalized on Statesboro’s offensive snafus two weeks ago.
Last Friday, the Panther defense crushed the Wildcats, holding them to 153 total yards.
"We are feeding off our defense right now," offensive coordinator Ryan Glazer said. "We understand that is the strength of our team."
Glazer said the offense is adjusting to fit the defense by reducing mental errors and using the clock better, which has enabled the Panthers to maintain sustainable scoring drives and has given their defense time off the field to rest.
"Offensively, our strategy went from trying to put up 40 points a game to getting it to the point where we can help our defense out," he said. "We have been able to sustain some drives and have been able to score when we needed to in the last two games and that is what helped us."
For the Panther defense, Anthony Dabson had the WTOC hit of the week with his sack of the Wildcat quarterback. He had six tackles for the night, including a tackle for loss.
DeAnte Lumpkin had nine and a half tackles and Charles Hall had 10, including two tackles for losses and a forced fumble. Turcory Rhodes appeared injury-free after he hurt his back against Statesboro. Rhodes tallied seven tackles, one tackle for loss and blocked his third punt of the season. Melvin King had seven tackles , including two tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and made two offensive pass receptions good for 44 yards. Shakur Cook had seven tackles, including three tackles for loss. Tavoris Lewis made an interception, killing the Wildcats’ final offensive drive. Lewis also had a kickoff return for 38 yards.
Offensively, Shadrach Thornton had 27 carries for 136 yards and scored both touchdowns. Matt Desbiens was three of seven passes for 57 yards.New Panther kicker Adrien Vakerics had four punts, three for touchbacks and averaged 41 yards a punt.
The coach said his team definitely plays better at home, saying they seem to come out of the tunnel with more intensity, which they will need against the Pirates.
"Brunswick is very fast, athletic and a lot like us defensively," Glazer said. "They move the ball quick like we do and on offense they’ll go five wide and pass it. Their quarterback is very dangerous. He is an athlete and he can run the ball and pass it. Against Valdosta, he had 600 total yards."
Kickoff is at 7 tomorrow night.