Liberty County High School (2-7) has one final opportunity to earn a win tonight at Effingham County (1-8) in a cross-region matchup in Springfield.
The Panthers and the Rebels are both 0-5 in 2-AAAA, but Liberty County managed an 18-12 win over Effingham County earlier this season.
“We came out a little slow against Effingham when they were here,” Panthers coach Kirk Warner said. “We fumbled the first two series of the game, but once we settled down we started moving the ball.”
A slow start is what stymied the Panthers last week in a 21-14 loss at Glynn Academy, when the Red Terrors were able to run up a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
“We came out flat, but we played great the last three quarters,” Liberty County offensive coordinator Ryan Glazer said. “We played with emotion.”
Senior Panther standout Shadrach Thornton broke the 4,000-yard rushing mark for his high school career. He had 25 carries for 206 yards and two touchdowns against Glynn to bring the Panthers back into the game.
“As long as I’ve been here … I’m pretty sure … you know I coached at Bradwell (too) and they had some backs, but we’ve definitely never had anybody who rushed for 4,000 yards,” Warner said, reflecting on Thornton’s accomplishment.
Defensively, Marcus LeCounte stepped up his game, leading the Panthers with 11 solo tackles and one assist.
The Panthers also ran up 333 rushing yards against Effingham the first time around.
“Our game plan is going to be pretty much the same, run Shadrach (Thornton) a little bit and get Sam (Carter), (Andre) Haggary and JJ Grant involved and try to come out with the short passing game a little bit and see where it goes,” Warner said.
Warner said he would like to send out his seniors with a win, “especially when it’s the last game of the season. I told my seniors, ‘You always tend to remember the last game you played,’ so hopefully we can send those guys out right.”
But the coach said it’s also a chance to start looking toward the future.
“We want to use this game as the springboard for next season. Go out with a win and possibly get our younger guys involved in the game and use it as a building block towards next year,” he said.
Warner said that may mean pulling Thornton out of the game, if possible.
“Hopefully we can take him out and rest him up, and he might get mad at me, but that way we can get a glimpse of the future,” he said.
It also will allow Thornton to begin thinking about his future as he looks toward his college career.
Thornton verbally committed to Kentucky but had his official visits with Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and Vanderbilt. On Wednesday evening, he was still receiving calls from other Division I schools.