Behind a dominating defense and an effective offense, the Liberty County Panthers got back into the race for a playoff spot.
Ron Golden ran for two scores and caught a touchdown pass and Liberty’s defense added two scores as the Liberty County Panthers broke into the win column with a 42-14 win over Johnson at Donell Woods Stadium/Kirk Warner Field on Friday night.
The win also put the Panthers (1-4) squarely back into the Region 3-AAA playoff race at 1-1. They will travel to Garden City to face Groves on September 29.
“I told the kids before the game, we’re waiting to explode,” Panthers coach Tony Glazer said. “The last two weeks of practice, we’ve had really good weeks of practice. We’ve been working on the small things, the fundamentals, and working on being physical. It showed tonight. We were physical on defense. We were able to go up and down the field, and they struggled to move the ball. We were waiting to explode and we exploded tonight.”
The Panthers, who had scored just 26 points in their first four games, got more than that in the first half alone against the Atom Smashers.
Ron Golden had touchdown runs of 11 and 7 yards out of the wildcat formation. In between his two scores, Terry Andrews ran back a fumble 5 yards for a score, and raced 75 yards with an interception for another.
Liberty’s defense forced eight plays for losses in the first half against Johnson.
Johnson, aided by two personal foul calls on the Panthers, ended a 44-yard drive with Jashawn Lovett’s 2-yard touchdown run with 1:35 to go in the third quarter.
Liberty answered as Audric Whitfield fell on a Smashers fumble, setting up the Panthers at the Johnson 10. The short drive ended on Carlos Singleton’s 7-yard swing pass to Golden to open the fourth quarter.
Anquan Roberts powered in from 2 yards out for Liberty’s final touchdown. Johnson wrapped the scoring on Jadon Pugh’s 63-yard catch and run of a Brayden Hurst pass.
The Panthers lost to Johnson last year, putting them in an 0-2 hole in the region. Now at 1-1, they’re in much better position to claim one of the region’s four postseason spots.
“We knew we had to get this one,” Glazer said. This is the position we wanted to be in. We’ve got to beat Johnson and now we’ve got to keep working to make ourselves better.”
Liberty’s schedule so far has included Class AAA No. 2 Calvary Day, Pierce County, the No. 4-ranked team in Class AA, and Southeast Bulloch, a Class AAAA team that is 3-2. That’s a collective record of 13-2.
“After the Pierce County game, we adjusted some things and came up with some things to practice a little differently,” Glazer said. This week of practice was by far the best week of practice we’ve had all year. We answered the challenge.”
The early season gauntlet also hasn’t demoralized the Panthers, who are now one of six teams at 1-1 in the region.
“It just shows the character of them,” Glazer said. “They buy into what we’re trying to do. We try to get better every day and when Friday is over, it’s over. These kids take that by heart.”