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Panthers squeak past BI Tigers, 10-9
Heated match rife with penalties and flags
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Tiger Stephen Felton is taken down in BIs 10-9 loss to Liberty County High School. Felton had a good night rushing and passing the ball for positive gains. - photo by Patty Leon

Liberty County High School gets to keep the Commissioner’s Cup one more year after beating Bradwell, 10-9, at Olvey Field on Friday night.

Tensions ran high as the Tigers and Panthers took to the field. The game was wrought with calls for unsportsmanlike conduct on both sides and was riddled with yellow flags, miscues and

But there were a few spectacular plays, including a 15-yard touchdown pass completion from Panther Jaalon Frazier to Jacquez Williams and a 95-yard kick return for a touchdown by Tiger Terrius Crimiel on the ensuing kick.

Those two plays resulted in a 7-7 tie in the second quarter.

But as pretty as those plays were, roughly 16 flags had hit the turf before halftime. More than half were thrown against the Tigers, costing them nearly 100 yards, according to unofficial stats. It cost the Panthers around 45 yards.

“It wasn’t pretty on either side, but we will take it. … I always say if we win by one point, I’ll be satisfied. Now we can put his behind us. It’s been eating at us all summer … hopefully, both teams can put this behind them and go grab outstanding seasons,” Liberty head coach Kirk Warner said after the game.

Tiger head coach Greg Hill knows his team can do better.

“There were way too many mistakes…too many penalties,” Hill said. “We looked like a poor coached football team. I don’t know if the magnitude of this game … the rivalry that got them mixed up. … They didn’t perform the way I know they are capable of playing.”

The teams stayed tied until the Panthers moved the ball and the Tigers drew a penalty, placing the Panthers at their 13-yard line. The Liberty offense, however, made it harder to nab a touchdown when a high snap gave them a 12-yard loss.

Panther Joaquin Lemapu came out for a field goal but was tested when the Panthers drew another flag, pushing them further back. Lemapu hit it from beyond the 35-yard mark to give Liberty a 10-7 lead.

The Tigers mounted a drive thanks to running back Luther Echols. The clock ticked down to five seconds and BI’s Stephen Felton launched a pass only to have Panther Sam Roberts pick it off to end the second quarter.

The second half was awash with yellow flags intertwined occasionally with exciting plays and suspenseful moments. The Tigers had a chance to pull ahead and were driving toward the Panthers’ end zone in the fourth quarter. On fourth and two, the Panthers’ stuffed the Tigers drive but were deep in their own territory. LCHS drew a flag and made it to the half-yard mark. The Tigers eventually got a safety.

With 30 seconds left in the game, the Panthers kicked the ball. While the Tigers had great field position near midfield, they had no way to stop the clock having used all three time outs earlier. Making things a bit harder, BI drew a false start. With one tick left on the clock, the Tigers went for a Hail Mary. Roberts broke up the play to keep the visiting Panthers ahead for a 10-9 victory.

The LCHS boys dowsed their head coach with ice water and passed the trophy among the players and coaching staff.

Once again, the Panthers played without Richard LeCounte, who still is awaiting for medical clearance.

“He feels well, but the medical staff wanted to give him one more week,” Warner said. “I think he will be ready by next week.”

In addition, Liberty may have lost Jarquel Richardson. He was carried off the field after the first offensive play of the game.

Proposed starting quarterback Walker Franklin still is waiting to be declared eligible and cheered for his school from the sidelines, along with LeCounte.

“We are still waiting. We sent out everything they asked us for on Thursday … and on game day Fridays, most of the time, they are out of the office early. They are closed on Monday, so hopefully, we will hear from them on Tuesday,” said Warner, who also was quick to praise Panther quarterback Jaalon Frazier for a great game.

Though he struggled at times, Frazier made big completions to Gyri Durant and Williams. The Panthers’ rushing game was led by JaMarcus Latson with Williams close behind. If nothing else, the sophomore quarterback is gaining valuable game-time experience.

Defensively, Lemapu was dominant, and Calvin Holmes also crushed some big plays.

For the Tigers, Luther Echols and Stephen Felton were the workhorses. The big surprise came from junior Trevon McCoy, who rushed twice and broke out a 60-plus-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Felton ran and took snaps under center, along with sophomore Tiger quarterback Duane Johnson. Defensively, Lynwood Spaulding and Lorenzo Brinson crushed the Panthers.

Hill said the loss doesn’t hamper his long-term vision for the season.

“We made mistakes, but you always want to look for something good,” he said. “The good thing is, this game doesn’t have any bearings on our ultimate goal.”

Hill said every coach wants to win every game they play, but the lesson is to evaluate what the Tigers need to do for the rest of the season and, more importantly, in the region games.

“We gave them some breaks (with penalties) and also turnovers and we need to eliminate those things,” Hill said.

Next week, the Tigers play at Calvary Day, and the Panthers play at McIntosh County Academy.


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