The last time the Liberty County Panthers played the Hephzibah Rebels was in 2007, when Liberty earned a 14-13 win.
Tonight, the Panthers travel to Waynesboro to face their sub-region opponent, who is looking for its first win of the season. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
The Panthers are 3-1 overall after a resounding 42-7 win Sept. 21 over Cross Creek. Liberty pounded out 313 rushing yards to go with 83 passing yards. On defense, the Panthers registered four sacks for negative-22 yards and four interceptions returned for 16 yards, including a touchdown.
Quarterback JJ Grant was 4-of-9 passing for 83 yards and a touchdown and also ran the ball nine times for 85 yards. Andre Haggray stepped up the running game with 89 yards on 10 carries. Even linebacker Raekwon McMillan ran the ball well with 10 carries for 51 yards.
Being able to run the ball effectively is something Panther coach Kirk Warner would like to see his team do against the Rebels. Liberty is averaging 189.5 rushing yards per game, compared with Hephzibah’s 101.8.
“Going into the season, we knew it would be running backs by committee and those guys (Haggray and Grant) had 80-90 yards rushing, so we distributed the ball real well and when they had a chance, they stepped up,” Warner said.
He is a little concerned about the two-hour-plus bus ride when it comes to some of his younger players.
“The older guys were freshman when we were making some of those long rides,” Warner said. “I am more concerned about some of our younger guys … on staying focused.”
Warner said Hephzibah is a typical Augusta-style team.
“Very athletic and big up front, so we have to play four quarters of football like we did this past Friday,” he said. “I always tell the players we have to play better this Friday than we did last Friday.”
The Panthers are averaging 276.8 total yards of offense per game, while the Rebels have 120.3. Defensively, Liberty averages 7.3 sacks per game to Hephzibah’s .5 sacks per contest.
Already sporting a better record than 2010 and 2011, Liberty can, with a win tonight, set the pace for another playoff year. The Panthers made it to the second round of the playoffs in 2009.