The Liberty County Panther boys’ soccer squad is 9-0 after defeating West Laurens 7-0 on the road on Friday and downing Thomson 5-1 at home on Saturday. They are also 3-0 in region 3-AAA.
With their recent wins the Panthers have won more soccer games this season then their last two seasons combined.
When asked, the players say their success stems from playing together for many years. Nine of the 11 Panther starters developed their skills through the Liberty County Recreation Department’s and Hinesville Gator Soccer Club. Several of the Panther seniors have played together since elementary school, which enables them to anticipate each other’s moves on the field.
According to the players, positioning is a key that has turned the team around. Senior Cody Folker is playing in both the midfield and the striker position, depending on the needs of the game. His adaptability to play both positions has been crucial in setting up plays and putting the ball in the net.
Senior Michael Wilkinson credits better communications between teammates as another factor in their victories. He thought the freshmen from last season now know what to expect and have matured in their game this year as sophomores.
New to the Panther squad, senior Cody Waterman, and is credited with boosting the offense. High scoring sophomores Adrian Vakerics and Robbie Bacon have scored 20 of the 30 goals so far this season.
Senior Cody Rozier brings an unmatched energy and aggression to the defense and, with the help of senior Andre Holliday and sophomore Martin Causer has kept the shots on goal to a minimum.
Senior goalkeeper Eric Holloway fiercely protects his goal and his advantage over the opposition is his complete lack of fear.
Panther of the Year for 2007 and 2008 Wesley Causer has moved from defense into the midfield this season and controls the games, switching in and out of defensive and offensive positions.
Scoring seven goals so far this season, Causer is a triple threat. He can score, set up a score or stop a score. He has a knack for pulling his defense up at just the right time to draw the offside call. With Causer, Wilkinson and Folker and senior Devon Buck playing in the midfield the team has the capability to stop the opposition there and push the ball up into a scoring position.
Senior Mike Wilkinson broke his leg in Saturday’s game while going for a goal, colliding with the keeper from Thomson. He underwent surgery Sunday.
Liberty 7, West Laurens 0
Goals: Vakerics: 1, Folker: 1, Bacon: 1, Jimenez: 1, Causer: 2
Liberty 5, Thomson 1
Goals: Bacon: 3, Vakerics: 1, Folker: 1
The Lady Panthers are 4 – 4-1 and 2-1 in region play after losing at West Laurens 3-6 Friday night but winning 4-0 Saturday against Thomson.
"It was a tough loss," Lady Panther coach Jarvis McArthur said of Friday’s game. "Because the girls played their hearts out and we led 3-2, with less than 20 minutes left in the game."
Lady Panther Elyssa Lemapu scored two goals and Mystery Ellert scored one on Friday.
"We bounced back on Saturday, winning 4-0 against Thomson," the coach said. "Elyssa Lemapu scored three goals and Diana Jimenez added another."
The Panthers are home on Saturday to face Richmond Hill. The girls play at 2 p.m. with the boys’ game to follow.
Marcia Graham contributed the information for the boys’ games.