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Panthers pull out miracle win over SEB

BROOKLET – There may be more impactful victories for the Liberty County High School football team. Finding a more meaningful one may take some doing.

So will finding a more miraculous one.

Ron Golden outjumped two Southeast Bulloch defenders in the end zone to haul in Carlos Singleton’s 26-yard touchdown pass with 7 seconds remaining, and the Panthers stunned host SEB 33-29 Thursday night at Fred Shaver Field.

“When I saw him roll out, I thought, ‘throw the ball to me, throw the ball to me,’” Golden said. “The ball was in the air and I felt like I had to catch it.”

It was the first game for the Panthers since the passing of longtime coach Kirk Warner two months ago.  And they staged an unlikely and nearly impossible finish to win it.

“It means everything,” Singleton said of the win.

The Panthers trailed 29-26 and faced second and 21 from their own 9-yard line with just over a minute left – and no timeouts. But Singleton hit James Summersett across the middle and Summersett broke through the SEB defense for a 50-yard pickup.

“It was very important,” Singleton said. “It brought the momentum and energy.”

Singleton then connected with Tre Foster over the middle for another first down, before he scrambled right and lofted a pass to the endzone.

“I had to slow my head down,” Singleton said. “At the same time, I’m doing this for Coach Warner. I had to take time and slow the game down for me.”

The Panthers are honoring their coach on their helmets throughout this season, with a decal that declares in bold letters Coach Warner.

“I think what you saw is a hungry football team that has been waiting for this night,” interim coach Tony Glazer said. “We’ve had a very rough offseason. Our boys have had a great offseason in how they’ve worked and they’ve grown a lot.”

The Panthers nearly lost their chance at any kind of comeback when Colby Smith sacked Jaden Hurd, in the game after Singleton’s helmet was knocked off the play before, forcing a fumble. Two Yellow Jackets defenders couldn’t corral the bounding ball, and Liberty recovered at its own 9. Singleton found Summersett, who raced from the middle of the field toward the SEB sideline, on the next snap.

The start of the game was delayed by more than an hour because of nearby lightning. Then, with 9:25 showing on the game clock in the second quarter and at 9:25 p.m., the stadium lights went out, leading to a 17-minute stoppage.

The Panthers were about to go for a two-point conversion when every light bank went dark.

“We were moving,” Glazer said. “We were rocking and rolling.”

The Panthers built a 20-6 lead on big plays, mostly on defense. Summersett ran a fumble back 22 yards for a score, and on SEB’s next possession, Markel Adside took a deflected pass 27 yards for an interception return for a score.

Jamar Joseph scored on the second play of the game, taking Singleton’s screen pass and racing 50 yards down the Liberty sideline, eluding a tackler at the 5.

SEB got on the board on its ensuing possession, with the first of Collin Jackson’s two touchdown runs. The Yellow Jackets use Jackson, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end, as short-yardage specialist, and he powered from 5 yards out.

Jackson’s 1-yard scoring run with 24 seconds left in the first half cut the Panthers lead to 20-13, and the Yellow Jackets drew within 20-19 as Damion Donaldson’s 22-yard burst capped an eight-play drive to open the second half.

The Panthers answered right back. Joseph took the ensuing kickoff, ran right, stopped and cut back across the field, eventually scoring on an 89-yard return.

Cole Snyder had a 36-yard field goal for the Yellow Jackets, and SEB got the lead for the first time on Gage Digiovanni’s 26-yard keeper with 7:25 to play in the game.

After picking up one first down, Liberty was forced to punt back to the Jackets, who took over with 3:24 to go. The Panthers held but got the ball back at their 10 with 2:17 left.

SEB observed a moment of silence before the game in honor of Warner, who lost a battle with cancer in June.

“We do this for Coach Warner,” Golden said. “His spirit is still alive in us. Everything is for him.”

SEB plays Statesboro on Saturday in the Erk Russell Classic. Liberty will visit Bradwell Institute at Olvey Field/Hokey Jackson Stadium on Friday. 

Ron Golden leaps to bring in the game-winning touchdown pass with 7 seconds remaining against Southeast Bulloch. - photo by Photo bu Scott Bryant/Statesboro Herald
Liberty County's James Summersett (1) celebrates his fumble return for a touchdown in the Panthers' win over SEB. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue
The Liberty County Panthers are wearing this helmet sticker to honor the late Kirk Warner, the longtime Liberty County coach who passed away in June. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

VIDEO: Liberty County game-winning catch

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