Two teams sitting at 1-1 square off tonight as the Effingham County Rebels visit the Liberty County Panthers at Donell Woods Stadium.
The Rebels are coming off a 35-7 loss to Jefferson County but still managed to tally 215 yards of offense, 166 of it on the ground.
The Panthers had 447 total offensive yards, 376 coming from the running game with 205 of those coming from Panthers running back Shadrach Thornton.
With both teams showing speed on offense, it’s going to come down to the defense, and so far the Panthers’ defense has done its job — even in the 21-6 loss to Americus in week one.
The Panthers’ defense tallied 39 tackles and recovered two fumbles against Americus.
Against the McIntosh County Academy Buccaneers last week, Raekwon McMillan led the defense with 10 tackles, two assists and a sack. Melvin King had eight solo tackles, one assist and blocked a field goal. Anthony Dabson had two sacks and a fumble recovery. Rodney Goffney blocked a punt, had an interception and tallied five tackles.
Just before halftime, the Panthers stopped the Bucs from scoring by pushing the runner out of bounds on the 1-yard line, pushing them back and blocking the field-goal attempt.
In all, the Panthers had 62 tackles against the Bucs, and according to Panthers defensive coordinator Tony Glazer, they will have to put the brakes on the Rebels as well.
“We watched their film versus Screven and Jefferson, and the biggest thing we got from that is that they are fast and their running backs run very physical,” Glazer said. “We are going over gap responsibility this week. They run a lot of pulls and motions, so we are going over the fundamentals with our D-line.” The Rebels likely will hand the ball to both of their standout runners, Jacob Rader and Cameron Lewis. Rader led the Rebels’ offense last week with 63 rushing yards and 19 yards receiving. Not far behind is the Rebels’ other go-to guy, Lewis, who rushed for 47 yards against Jefferson County.
It’s worth noting that the Panthers ironed out the kinks in their kicking game that were evident in the first game. Against the Bucs, Jalen Gilyard was 4 for 4 in extra points and punter Cory Lazenby had two punts for a total of 85 yards.
“The first two games have been pretty positive. The only real negative from the first two weeks were a couple of plays,” Glazer said of his defense. “But we’ve been trying to get the kids to listen better. We have to get tougher in the middle, and our line, defensive tackles and inside linebackers have to get better.”
Although Thornton carried the ball 17 times, the Panthers’ offense has been able to take some of the pressure off the senior and spread the wealth.
Thornton was able to rest the entire fourth quarter last week, while teammates Andre Haggary had seven carries for 25 yards, Jordan Moody touched the ball once for 20 yards and quarterback JJ Grant ran for 130 yards. Sam Carter, who had a strong performance against Americus, is expected to return to action tonight after sitting out last week due to a slight injury.
Another improvement that should benefit the Panthers tonight is their passing game. After a rough start, Grant hit 2 of 4 passes for 30 yards last week, and Thornton was 2 of 3 for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.