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Panthers, Cadets battle Friday at Donell Woods Stadium
Liberty's defense swarms over a South Effingham player during this year's scrimmage. The Panthers will have a big test Friday night hosting Benedictine in a non-region game.

Liberty County High School will get an early feel for the postseason when the Panthers welcome regional power Benedictine to Donell Woods Stadium on Friday.

 “This is going to be similar to playing a first-round playoff game … they are that good,” Panther football coach Kirk Warner said. “They are fundamentally sound and physical … they can throw and they can run … we have our work cut out for us.”

The Cadets are 0-1 after their 24-21 loss at Greater Atlanta Christian on Aug. 21 in Norcross. However, the Savannah team is coming off a 13-1 overall record that included going to the state semifinals.

The Cadets also have had the last two weeks to prepare for the Panthers’ stalwart defense. Benedictine’s offense is led by senior quarterback Stevie Powers, who went 16-for-30 passing for 274 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener.

The running game features senior Chance Jackson, who rushed for 785 yards last season and had 41 yards on eight carries in the first game.  Sophomores John Kennedy (91 yards on 11 carries) and Chris Harris (29 yards on five carries) also have key roles.

The Panther defense also will need to focus on senior Brad Stewart, who had six receptions worth 126 yards and a touchdown. Joseph Holguin, another favorite target of Powers, had five receptions for 72 yards. Also, Kennedy had three catches for 59 yards and a touchdown, while Jackson caught two passes for 17 yards.

The Cadets totaled 174 passing yards and 274 rushing yards.

In its first three games, Liberty tallied 603 rushing yards and 349 passing yards. Last Friday, senior Walker Franklin, in his first game after being declared eligible to play, was 8-for-16 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns against McIntosh County Academy.

If needed, the Panthers can throw in Jaalon Frazier to stir things up. The backup quarterback posted 160 passing yards and one touchdown in the first two games.

The Panthers were given an added boost with the return of sophomore standout Richard LeCounte. Offensively, he completed one pass for a touchdown and rushed once for 14 yards. He also returned a punt 30 yards and returned an interception 26 yards. He had five total tackles.

“It helped,” Warner said about having Franklin and LeCounte back in the game. “When you have leaders on the field, it brings the morale of the entire team up … they played a good game, but we had a lot more or our other players step up and played to that level because of their presence.”

Warner said he considers the game against Benedictine a test.

“We want to see just how far this program has come … especially this year, with some of the new fits that we have … we have to beat teams of this caliber if we want to achieve our goals at the end of the year so … we have this early test with Benedictine, and we will see how far we’ve come,” he said.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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