Pumping iron, running sprints and hitting the tackle blocks is what the Liberty County football team has kept busy with throughout the spring. For the Panthers, going 8-4 overall last year and finishing 3-1 in Region 3-AAAA was just a starting point as they look to climb higher up the playoff ladder.
This season, the Panthers will compete in a new region. The outcome they envision will be the result of the sweat and work they are putting in now. In order to beat the heat, players meet early, wrapping up conditioning before noon.
“We’ve been out here conditioning, but this week is the first week we’ve done some football activities outside,” head coach Kirk Warner said, as he scanned the practice field. “Mainly individual work and we’ve done a little seven on seven for about 20 minutes. But we’ve been conditioning and getting stronger the whole month.”
The Panthers will be senior-heavy in several skilled positions this season.
Last year, starting quarterback Jaalon Frazier completed 82 of 169 passes for 1,443 yards and 12 touchdowns. This season, Frazier will be a senior and expected team leader.
In addition to Frazier, the Panthers have depth at quarterback. Rising junior Aaron Kuhl saw limited varsity time last year as a quarterback, and was 1 of 5 passing for 25 yards.
First Presbyterian Christian Academy transfer Dylan Stewartwill likely get some snaps under center. At FPCA last year, Stewart played in 11 games, completing 44 of 119 for 823 yards and nine touchdowns.
And then, of course, there is all-around standout Richard LeCounte entering his senior year. Last year, LeCounte completed 25 of 45 passes for 506 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions.
The Panthers also will be senior-heavy at back and wide receiver.
The Panther running-back crew accounted for 3,080 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns last year. Of those, 1,266 yards and 11 touchdowns came from Jacquez Williams who is headed to Wake Forest in the fall.
LeCounte was second on the team in rushing yards with 865 and had seven rushing touchdowns. He led the team in receiving yards with 564 yards off 25 catches and four touchdowns. Last season, Elisha Polite led in receptions with 27 and second in receiving yards with 501 yards and six touchdowns.
LeCounte led the team in all-purpose yards with 1,967, Williams was second with 1,731. Stewart was second in rushing at FPCA last season with 529 yards and six touchdowns.
Look for Kevin Malwah, Jeremiah Melton and Dennis Davis to add to the running game this season. Seniors Beau Young, Kameron Warner, Jalen Dudley, Charell Roberts and Javin Heath are listed among the receivers.
The Panther defense took a bit of a hit as Jacari Roberts, Jeremiah Gilbert Calvin Holmes and Martial Washington graduated.
But LeCounte led the defense in total tackles with 100, including 12 for loss of yards. Antonio Golden, a rising senior, had 83 total tackles, and Tucker Lyda, also a senior, had 68. Stewart defensively had 21 total tackles.
Seniors Michael Roberts and Etienne Chapman also are returning linebackers, while Golden and senior Chris Williams are returning tackles to the lineup.
Warner said they will continue activities until they break for the Fourth of July, commonly known as “dead week” for the Georgia High School Association. This year, it is July 3-9.
“Once we get back from the July Fourth break, we will start to work on more field activities,” Warner added. The coach said the team will attend
Football camp in Ware County July 21-22.
“It’s an excellent camp. ... The kids work out in pads and helmets, and we plan to work hard and work on Liberty County football,” Warner said.
To raise funds for the season, the Panthers will start selling discount cards just before dead week and throughout the summer. Next week, they plan to host a lift-a-thon.
“People can pledge anywhere between 1 cent to 5 cents a pound the kids lift,” Warner explained. “We take the total lifts from the bench (press), squat and power clean. Let’s say they lift a total of 1,000 pounds, and if you pledged a penny a pound, that would be a $10 donation.”