This past season was important for the Liberty County Panthers.
After missing the playoffs three seasons in a row, the Panthers made it back, losing to Westover in the first round. However, Liberty’s tremendous senior class, led by Ohio State Buckeye Raekwon McMillian, has created an atmosphere of respect around the state and one of focus and expectation among Panther head coach Kirk Warner’s players.
At the end of spring football, preseason polls put Liberty County at 25 in the AAAA. Warner, a former Georgia Bulldog tight end, knows polls don’t mean anything. It’s how hard you work in the weight room and practice, and ultimately what you do on Friday nights that counts. His goal remains the same as it has for his 13 years at Liberty and that is for the Panthers to play 15 games. The Panthers are taking steps to achieving that goal.
“Our goal, as always, is to be a better team than the year before and to play 15 games. We took a step toward that goal by having an outstanding winter and summer workout and conditioning program,” Warner said.
Liberty wasn’t concerned with camps or passing leagues as school let. The team focused on 117 players faster and stronger.
Sophomore Richard LeCounte, who continues to add to his college offers, did not attend many events other than the elite Rivals Five Star national combine in Baltimore.
“We made the playoffs last year and it was great,” LeCounte said. “We started something last year and we want to keep it going. This summer it’s more important to be with my teammates, getting ready for the season by getting stronger and faster.”
The coach also believes the Panthers are getting stronger.
“I would have to say Calvin Holmes made the biggest gain in the weight room. He used to hate the squat life but he was very impressive by repping 405 lbs,” Warner said.
Increased commitment to summer workouts has led offensive players Chandra Mells, the Bryant boys, Gyri Durant, Jacquez Williams, Lecounte and defensive players Jacari Roberts, Tracy White, Jeremiah Gilbert, Brandon Course and Deshawn Hudson to improve their ability and, more importantly, to become leaders, according to Warner.
Kahraun Flowers OL, Colton Oglesby and Walker Franklin QB have shown the potential to make an impact. Younger players who have improved include Jaalon Frazier, Kameron Warner, Jeremiah Melton, Sam Roberts and Tucker Lyda.
Full practices start next week.
“Our goal is to hit the ground running and, hopefully, the heat index will allow us to get a full practice session in,” Warner said. “By the end of the first week, we want to have a basic game plan installed offensively and defensively.”
In an emerging trend among high schools, the Panthers will scrimmage South Effingham at home Aug. 15 and then open season play against Effingham County on Aug. 22. Both South Effingham and Effingham are a part of the retooled, blockbuster Region 3-AAAAA that Bradwell Institute is in.
“By the first scrimmage and moving into zero week and game one, we hope to offensively have our entire playbook in and have our starting quarterback race settled. On the other side of the ball to see how much depth we have developed,” Warner said.
Liberty meets the Tigers in the traditional game two at Olvey Field on Aug. 29.