RICHMOND HILL — Liberty County High School’s defense was rock-solid once again.
A week after LCHS blanked state power Statesboro 29-0, the Panthers pitched their second straight shutout Friday, leading Liberty to a 13-0 win over much-improved Richmond Hill.
"They (RHHS) had me scared to death to be honest with you, but our defense rose to the occasion," said LCHS coach Kirk Warner, whose team improved to 1-0 in Region 2A-AAAA and 2-3 overall. "Our offense scored when they had to, but my hat’s off to our defense. They played assignment football, bowed their backs and did what we needed them to do all night."
So did junior running back Shadrach Thornton, who carried 28 times for 133 yards and both LCHS touchdowns. Additionally, Thornton’s 41-yard run from the LCHS 4-yard line with minutes left to play helped preserve the shutout.
"Shad is a workhorse. He’s one of the best backs in the region and he showed it tonight," Warner said.
Thornton carried the ball nine times on the Panthers’ first scoring drive, a 13-play, 63-yard march highlighted by a 32-yard pass from Matt Desbiens to Melvin King. The completion set the Panthers up at the Wildcats’ 13 with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
Thornton did the rest, reeling off runs of 8, 3 and then 2 yards for the touchdown, and Adrien Vakerics’ extra point put the Panthers up 7-0 early in the second quarter.
Special teams play sparked the Panthers’ second score, when Tucory Rhodes’ blocked punt with 3:02 left in the third period put Liberty County back in business on the Wildcats’ 36.
Thornton had carries of 11, 6 and 7 yards — the latter a touchdown run — on the four-play drive that included a 12-yard pass from Desbiens to Sam Carter. Richmond Hill blocked the extra point, but Liberty’s 13-0 lead with 1:14 left in the third quarter seemed insurmountable.But the Wildcats threatened late, getting inside the Panthers’ 5-yard line twice in the last 3 minutes of the game — the second time after defensive back Josh Miller intercepted a halfback pass thrown by Thornton and returned it 46 yards to the Liberty 24.
Liberty still had some big plays up its sleeve, however. Defensive back Tavoris Lewis picked off an Eli Thompson pass at the 2 with just over a minute left to play, setting up Thornton’s longest run of the night.
Desbiens finished the night completing 3 of 7 passes for 55 yards. King had two of those catches for 43 yards
Unofficially, the Panthers had 176 total yards of offense and held Richmond Hill to 161 yards.
Demetrick Mothershed had a fumble recovery for Liberty, and Vakerics punted four times for a 38-yard average.
Liberty plays host to Brunswick on Thursday night.