The Liberty County High School football team will take a long bus ride to Waycross and enter Gator country tonight, where the Panthers will face Ware County at 7:30 p.m.
The Gators are 5-1 overall, 2-0 in Region 2A-AAAA and ranked No. 6 in Class AAAA in the most recent Associated Press poll. The Panthers (2-4, 0-2) still are in search of their first region win, and coach Kirk Warner said they expect a physical challenge tonight.
“We know that Ware is big, fast, strong and well-coached, and that is why they are ranked so highly in the state,” he said.
The Gators’ offense is led by quarterback Josh Bennett, who has completed 36 of 74 attempts for 456 yards and one touchdown but has thrown three interceptions. He’s rushed for 269 yards. Senior William Golden has 230 rushing yards.
Warner said the Gators run the spread much like the Panthers but added that “they are very multiple — they run the spread and throw the power game at you. The thing about it is that they do both of them well. They will give us 15-20 different formations. They only run a few plays, but they will formation you to death.”
Liberty County is led offensively by senior running back Shadrach Thornton, who has rushed for 1,129 yards and 10 touchdowns. Thornton has thrown from the Wildcat formation, completing 6 of 19 for 92 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Panthers quarterback JJ Grant is 14 of 32 for 180 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Warner said the coaching staff has worked on game-planning all week, but the players are going to have to use their minds in tonight’s game.
“Our players are going to have to really think,” he said. “If we do that and play fast, we will be all right.”
Warner said they have to avoid the penalties they produced against Brunswick last week that he thinks cost his team the game. The Pirates managed to beat Liberty, 30-28, after stopping a two-point conversion that would have sent to the game to overtime.
“We still have not come close to playing a complete game,” Warner said. “There were some inopportune penalties (against Brunswick) and I think we could have scored another time or two, and instead we gave the ball up on downs due to a penalty in the red zone. We have to minimize that and keep playing hard.”