Liberty County High School’s football team began hitting the pads last week, practicing offensive routes and learning fundamentals as the Panthers prepare for a busier-than-normal season.
The Panthers, who scrimmage South Effingham on Aug. 15 at Donell Woods Stadium, start their regular season one week earlier than other local prep schools to accommodate their 10 games this season. Liberty hosts Effingham County on Aug. 22, and then faces Bradwell Institute on Aug. 29 at Olvey Field Aug. 29.
“We play a scrimmage game and we play a week-zero game before Bradwell,” Panther football coach Kirk Warner said. “That was not by design. Our region is so small, we had to pick up six games, and that was hard to do. We made it work, but we have to hit the ground running in the summer to get ready for the season.”
Warner said about 100 kids are practicing. The Panthers’ training continues this week, culminating in the Black vs. Gold scrimmage at 3:45 p.m. Friday at Donell Woods Stadium.
“We are focusing on the fundamentals,” Warner said about training. “We have a bunch of young guys … about 65 of them are eighth- or ninth-graders, so we have to take it slow with those guys. Our primary focus right now is showing them the fundamentals and our practice tempo and how things are going to be going into the season.”
Last season, the Panthers played under the limelight provided by highly recruited senior linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who now is at Ohio State. As the 2013 football season played out, however, another Panther began garnering looks, much like McMillan did after his freshman year. Incoming sophomore Richard LeCounte already has 12 offers from Division I schools, according to rivals.com. Should his performance this season mirror or be better than last year’s, he could achieve a five-star recruit ranking by his junior year.
Panther defensive tackle and incoming junior Jacari Roberts is another player who could become a top prospect. According to rivals.com, there are six Division I schools interested in him.
“Those two guys that you mentioned are going to be our leaders, and they are young guys,” Warner said. “Richard will be a rising sophomore, Jacari a rising junior. But they have taken on the leadership roles along with some of the seniors like JaMarcus Latson and Jacquez Williams. Those guys are starting to fit into their roles right now.”
During the summer, the players will shift to morning sessions to avoid the intense heat and get as much time on the field as possible.
“That is going to be grind-and-go time,” Warner said. “We have to see who wants to play football, and we have to get them ready to go. We won’t have as much time once the season starts.”