The Liberty County Panthers (11-1) knocked off the Sonoraville Phoenix (8-4) in the second round of the AAA state playoffs Friday by a final of 28-14.
The Panthers advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
Liberty wasted little time, getting on the board after they took advantage of a 50-yard kickoff return by Richard LeCounte, setting them up at midfield. Quarterback Jaalon Frazier took a reverse from LeCounte and found Dylan Stewart wide open down the middle of the field on the first offensive play of the game to make the score 7-0.
The Phoenix looked to answer quickly on the ensuing drive, but LeCounte came up big from the linebacker position. He recorded two consecutive tackles for loss to force a Sonoraville punt.
The Phoenix did make some big plays on their next defensive drive to force a three and out for Liberty. The Phoenix took over at the Panther 48 after a poor punt and drove down the field to tie the score right at the beginning of the second quarter after quarterback Patrick Moore found Camron Keith from 15 yards out.
The Phoenix came up with another big defensive stop on the next drive, forcing a second three and out. Their offense started to drive down the field, riding on the back of running back Tristan Key.
But they could not get into the end zone and were faced with a fourth and 13 from the 25 yard line. Kevin Villatoro lined up for a 42-yard field goal, but it sailed wide left.
The Panthers got the ball at their own 20 and looked to make a big move down the field. Frazier did just that when he juked and jived his way into open field and raced 55 yards for the touchdown, making the score 14-7 late in the second quarter.
Neither team could open their offense and went into the locker room after a defensive struggle in the first half.
The Phoenix came out big on the first drive of the third quarter. Going 71 yards in five plays to tie the score. The biggest play was a 55-yard run by Key to cap off the drive.
Sonoraville attempted to surprise the Panthers with an onside kick, but the home team was ready. They took the ball from their own 49 and drove down the field, capping off the drive with Frazier’s 18-yard pop pass to running back Kris Coleman to make the score 21-14.
The Panthers made a big stop on their next defensive drive as Ernie Aponte came up with a big tackle for loss on third down. Sonoraville had to punt and the ball was downed at the 44.
Frazier carried the team on his back down the field on the next offensive drive, gaining 31 yards on two runs. He eventually found Stewart in the end zone from 14 yards out to give the Panthers their biggest lead of the game at 28-14.
The Panthers tried to add to their lead and nail down the Phoenix’s coffin after recovering a fumble at the 30 yard line. However, Sonoraville would not say die as their defense came up with a big stop on fourth down, regaining control at their own nine.
It was a back-and-forth struggle in the fourth quarter. Ultimately the Panthers wore down the Phoenix to walk away with the two-score victory.
The Panthers got big play from quarterback Frazier as he went 13-21 with 202 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 120 yards and another score. Stewart had 77 yards and two scores on three receptions.
A coin flip after the game determined whether Liberty would host or play on the road in the quarterfinal game next week.
The Panthers won the toss and will host the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans in the Elite Eight next Friday. Game is set for 6:30 p.m. and the admission is $12.