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Panthers suffer heartbreaker
LCHS loses home game by three points to WACO
Panther defender Bryon Johnson brings Golden Hawks running back Darius Stephens down by the ankle and is assisted by Marcus Jefferson (32) and Thomas Penny (42). They stopped a possible touchdown run in Friday’s 17-14 loss at home. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon

JV Panthers handed a loss by Statesboro Blue Devils

The junior varsity Panthers took a loss in Statesboro on Thursday, allowing the Blue Devils to win 24-14 despite a good start by the Liberty defense.

According to JV coach Ryan Glazer, Panther linebacker Charles Hall hit the Blue Devils running back, causing a fumble.

Panther Jamie Jones scooped up the ball and ran it back for a 65-yard Panther touchdown. Panther quarterback JJ Grant hit tight end Dominique Kanada in the end zone for a two-point conversion.

The Panther defense held Statesboro to a quick three downs and punt.

On the next offensive drive, Grant hit Jamel Perteet for a 47-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers attempted another two-point conversion, but it missed. The Panthers led 14-0 going into the second quarter.

Grant tossed another pass and found wide receiver Josh Saucier for a 30-yard touchdown pass, but it was brought back due to an ineligible man down field.

Stifling the drive, Statesboro’s offense took over and scored a 41-yard touchdown run.

Glazer said several mistakes by his team allowed the Blue Devils to score 17 points for the win.

"We had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, a muffed punt inside our 15-yard line and a fumbled snap Statesboro recovered)," he said. "Although we did not win the game, I was proud that the players played hard. I can really see the difference in them from the first game to now."

Glazer said his team is learning techniques every day at practice and instilling the fundamentals of football as they look to improve and work their way onto the varsity squad next season.

The JV Panthers will host Effingham County next Thursday. The first time they battled, the
Panthers came out with a 6-0 win in Effingham County.

Compared with the 42-0 shutout Liberty County suffered last season at the hands of the Washington County Golden Hawks, the Panthers improved a bit during Friday night’s home game, but still lost 17-14.

Despite the disheartening loss, the Panther defense stifled a Golden Hawks offense that had blown out previous opponents, and had the Washington County squad winded by the fourth quarter.

"I’ll give all the credit to Kirk Warner, the staff, the kids, they are a great football team," WACO coach Joel Ingram said after the game. "When we play somebody, we know we are going to get everybody’s game of the year. When you look at that margin of victory I’ll take it any way we can have it."

The Panthers held the Golden Hawks in their first offensive drive, forcing the punt. But the Golden Hawks defense returned the favor in the Panthers’ first drive.

The primary ball carriers for the Golden Hawks were Montravious "Whistle" Gladden and Darius Stephens. Stephens scored the first Hawks touchdown on a 25-yard run.

The Panthers mounted a drive with a completed screen pass to Shadrach Thornton from quarterback Julian Stokes, a completed pass to Sinjin Mullis and an offsides call drawn against the Golden Hawks. The Panthers’ drive soon faced a fourth and one, however, and LCHS head coach Kirk Warner chose to punt.

The Panther defense also held the Hawks, forcing the punt.

Stokes moved to the shotgun and hit Mullis in full stride for a 48-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7.

In the second quarter, the Hawks drove downfield and their quarterback, Markeist Warthen, saw wide receiver Jrametries Kirksay open in the end zone. He threw the pass, but Panther Artavious Frost stepped up and knocked it down. Two plays later, however, Gladden ran in their second touchdown and the special team kicked in the extra point.

Stokes found Mike Rodriguez for a five-yard completion. Stokes then found Kris Crawford for a five-yard completion on the far sideline. The Panthers drew an offsides penalty and the Hawks committed another penalty. Stokes completes a pass to Mullis and it appeared the Panthers were driving downfield for the score. Stokes looked downfield and tossed the ball in Rodriguez’s direction, but a Golden Hawk defender intercepted.

The Golden Hawks had an opportunity to extend their lead, but Kirksay dropped a pass in the end zone. The visiting team ran the clock down and kicked a field goal to close the half with a 17-7 lead.

In the second half, the Panther offense kicked it into high gear and mounted a three-play drive, ending in a 47-yard run by Thornton for another Panther touchdown.

Unlike the game against Glynn, the Panthers kicking team pinned WACO in bad field positions. Eddie Chipple’s punts were deep or bounced in bounds, giving the Golden Hawks a long field.

In addition, the defense stopped a drive by WACO where they had three shots for a touchdown inside the five-yard line.

The WACO offense apparently was not used to having a team hang in there and battle them beyond the first half.

The Panther defense held the drives, but the offense came up short of scoring.

"I told you if we made this a 15-round-heavy weight fight, it would go all the way down to the end," Warner told his team after the game. "We will not let this happen again. Remember how you are feeling."

Warner said he knew his team had a chance since they fight for every down and play all four quarters in every game, whereas WACO usually blows out its opponents early.

"I knew if we were still in it in the fourth quarter we had a chance to win," Warner said. "I’m proud of the guys. We didn’t quit, and that is a darn good football team. They are No. 4 in the state or better. We knew it would be a playoff atmosphere, so I think we got a taste of it and now we just have to get in."

Warner said he tips his hat to his defense, who shut down the Golden Hawks’ attempts to put extra points on the board. During his after-game speech, the coach told his players to put this game behind them and prepare to focus on their next region game at Thomson.

"We still have our goals," he said. "We need to
come back and focus and get that first region win next week."

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