Amid many control changes and strong plays by both teams, a tight game between Liberty County High School and West Laurens High School ended in the home team’s favor.
The Panthers, who were celebrating homecoming, eked out a 17-16 overtime victory against the Raiders. As the clock ran out, West Laurens attempted a two-point conversion, but the Panther defense blocked it.
Both teams were slow to put points on the board during the first half. The Raiders were up 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Panthers answered the Raiders’ field goal with a touchdown carried into the end zone by Shadrach Thornton. LCHS led at the half.
During halftime, Desiree Garcia, daughter of Brian and Rubie Garcia, was crowned the 2010 homecoming queen.
Going into the second half, the Panthers and the Raiders worked to put more points on the board, but neither squad managed a solid lead. The Panthers kicked for a field goal and the Raiders scored their first touchdown, bringing the score to 10-10 at the end of the fourth quarter and forcing the game into overtime.After the Panthers scored a touchdown on their first drive, the Raider’s answered it with a touchdown of their own. West Laurens’ loss came when they went for the win but failed to pull off a two-point conversion instead of kicking for an extra point.
Panther coach Kirk Warner said he’s proud that he could give the homecoming a crowd and good game and a win.
"I’ve got to take my hat off to the entire team. They didn’t break. We gave up some yardage, but when it counted we bowed our back and kept them out of the endzone," he said. "Offensively, when we needed to drive, Shadrach ran his heart out and (quarterback) Julian (Stokes) made the right decsions. The offensive line blocked great, so I can’t just choose one or two people. It was an effort by the entire offense, defense and special teams."
Warner said he’ll let the players enjoy the homecoming win, but not for too long as the season isn’t over yet.
"They can enjoy it ’til about Monday, then I’ve got to get to work on them for Burke County," the coach said.
Getting his players focused on the playoffs shouldn’t be too tough for Warner as the team is already geared up.
"It [winning the homecoming game] means a lot because this is when the play offs start. We’re No. 1 in the region right now and we’re trying to go all the way. We’re trying to play 15 games, and we’ve got seniors on the team that really deserve it," Thornton said.
However, he said he’s not taking this win for granted because the team worked hard to earn it.
"We could have come out and played a little bit harder than we played, but in the end, I’d like to shout out to my whole line because they pushed when we needed to push. Those boys came out here to play and they gave us a run for our money, and our quarterback is a wise man and our defense, they know how to step up when it’s time," Thornton said.
Defensive player Trammal Morris also said the game against West Laurens challenged the entire team, but he was proud to see how the squad handled it.
"I’m proud of my defense, the offense. I’m proud of the whole team," he said.