Three fumbles and two interceptions made for a difficult road game last Friday as Liberty County fell, 29-6, to Burke County in Waynesboro.
The Bears quickly capitalized on the first fumble for a touchdown. Later, they converted two more turnovers into scores before the half.
The turnovers also cost the Panthers points. According to Liberty County offensive coordinator Ryan Glazer, three turnovers were inside the Burke 20.
“Turnovers are killing us,” he said.
When the Panthers took care of the ball better, the Bears had to work to hit the end zone. They only did so once toward the end of the third quarter.
Liberty got a glimmer of hope late. The Bears committed a penalty on a kickoff, taking Richard LeCounte down by his face mask. Liberty quarterback Jaalon Frazier moved the ball, leading to Jacquez Williams running in for a Panther touchdown.
But by then, there wasn’t much time left on the clock. Looking at the scoreboard, however, the Panthers knew that if they could erase those three Bears touchdowns off turnovers, the game could have been different.
Williams finished with 107 rushing yards off 12 carries. LeCounte had 81 yards on 12 carries, and Jacari Roberts averaged 5 yards per carry. Frazier was 2-for-9 passing for 17 yards, with Gyri Durant notching both receptions.
The Panther offense generated 225 all-purpose yards.
“We moved the ball well on the ground,” Glazer said.
LeCounte was named the overall player of the game by the Liberty coaching staff, and Williams received the top offensive-player award.
On Friday, the Panthers (2-5 overall, 0-2 in Region 3-AAAA) hit the road again to play at Thomson. The Bulldogs also are having a rough season at 2-4 overall. Their offense has gone through five different quarterbacks, who have combined to go only 6 for 31 for 60 yards.
Right now, Frazier, the lone Panther quarterback, is 18 for 34 for 183 yards and one touchdown. JaMarcus Latson, who sat out last week’s game with an injury, leads the Panthers in rushing with 339 yards and two touchdowns on 61 carries. Williams has amassed 318 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 45 carries. Last week, he had his first 100-plus yards rushing game, according to maxpreps.com.
Latson is just one of several injured Panthers. Former starting quarterback Walker Franklin is out with a wrist injury, while Mike Williams, Tucker Lyda, Ty Freeman and Rene Estala also are out.
The Panthers still have playmakers, but their main focus going into Friday’s game is to hold on to the ball. Panther coach Kirk Warner repeatedly has said his team must protect the ball in order to make plays. In seven games this season, the Panthers have thrown 14 interceptions and lost 12 fumbles.
The Bulldogs are 3-1 in the series with the Panthers, but Liberty has better rushing and passing statistics than the Bulldogs. The Panthers have 626 passing yards and 1,074 rushing yards, while Thomson has 921 yards on the ground. The Panther defense is averaging 3.1 sacks per game to the Bulldogs’ 0.8.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.