Hyped up from their first round playoff victory the Liberty County Panthers head to Jackson High School’s Red Devil Stadium today, looking to strip away a perfect season from their opponents.
The Red Devils are ranked 49th in the state and 966th nationally and finished the regular season with an 11-0 overall and 8-0 region 4-AAA record. The Panthers are 63rd in the state and 1,284th nationally. They finished 8-3 overall and 4-2 in region 3-AAA.
According to Maxpreps.com, however, the Panthers have more rushing, passing and total offensive yards per game than the Red Devils, but the Jackson squad has scored more points per game than the Panthers.
Panther coach Kirk Warner said the Red Devils have good athletes, even a Division I-committed defensive back.
"Neiron Ball is a University of Florida commitment. He plays defensive back and is equally effective on offense as a receiver," Warner said this week. "He’s about 6’2, 210 and he can flat-out fly. We’ll have to worry about him on both sides of the ball. Hopefully we’ll get a little pressure on the quarterback and not allow him any clear lanes to throw to the guy and make some plays defensively."
The coach said the Red Devils run a spread offense much like the Panthers.
"They throw as much as we do and they have a stud running back, too, in Quint McKibben. We’ll just have to wrap him up and hopefully our defensive line can contain and dominate the line of scrimmage."
According to Maxpreps, McKibben is averaging 138 rushing yards per game. Panther running back Shadrach Thornton is averaging 109, but rushed for 136 against LaGrange last week.
Statistically the Panthers are averaging 79.5 tackles per game to the Red Devils 24.4.
But stats don’t mean a thing on the playing field if the Panthers allow too many turnovers or penalties. Warner said his players realize they made mental errors against LaGrange.
"I think we don’t have to beat it into the ground with them," he said. "They know what they did wrong and they are working hard to correct the mistakes. We’ve had some spirited practice all week."
Against LaGrange, the Panthers added what Warner calls a wrinkle to the offense by having Thornton line up in the wildcat.
"We used it sparingly all season," Warner said. "We used it against Thomson. We figured we can get him to the ball. He can see the holes better, block, and let him pick where he wants to go and he does a great job doing that."