The Panthers of Liberty County High School reclaimed the Commissioner’s Cup this past Friday beating cross-town rival, Bradwell Institute 40-17 on Olvey Field.
The annual grudge match brought in a big crowd and the teams battled hard keeping the game close up to half time.
The Panthers had a 14- 7 at the end of the first quarter. At the half the Tigers trailed by only one touchdown (20-14).
But the Liberty team had a strong second half outscoring the Tigers 20-3. At the buzzer Liberty held the lead to win 40-17. The win meant the Panthers would take home the Commissioner’s Cup. The trophy is given to the winning team to hold on to until the next rematch. This past year the Commissioner’s Cup sat in the Tigers’ den after the BI team beat Liberty 23-7.
In Friday’s matchup the Panthers scored first with senior Kris Coleman scoring on a run. However the Liberty team missed their point after attempt. It would be the first of several missed PATs throughout the game.
The Tigers took the lead when Kevin Harris rushed in for a touchdown and Tiger kicker Kenneth Lockhart making the point after.
Panther Dionte Bowens scored on a two yard run and then converted a two-point conversion allowing the Panthers to regain the lead 14-7.
The Liberty team extended their lead with a five yard touchdown run from Coleman, but again the Liberty team missed the PAT.
The Tigers defense got a boost when Alijah Jones intercepted a Panther pass for a quick pick six. Lockhart’s kick crossed the up-rights and the score was 20-17.
But Liberty’s Coleman would score three more touchdowns. The Panthers opted to go for another two-point conversion on one. They tried and failed on the other two extra point attempts.
Tiger quarterback Vencent Gilbert finished the night 12-of-23 for 195 passing yards. His longest pass was for 81 years to his favorite receiver Trisitan Pullins.
Pullins had 7 receptions for 161 yards.
Harris rushed for 77 yards and the lone offensive touchdown for the Tigers.
Coleman rushed for 351 yards and five of the Panthers touchdowns.
“It feels great,” Panther head coach Kirk Warner said. “The kids prepared the entire off season for that moment and they did not disappoint.”
“It's always good to start the season with a win no matter who you play,” Offensive Coordinator Ryan Glazer added. “Our guys really wanted to win this one after losing to Bradwell last season.”
Glazer said getting ready for the game was difficult due to the heat and many afternoon thunder storms which cut into their practice time.
Liberty is getting ready to tackle a difficult opponent this Friday at Statesboro. Glazer said they have a lot of things to work on, especially the Panthers’ special team unit.
Warner said he allowed the players 24 hours to celebrate the victory over the Tigers. “But right now it is very important that we bring the kids back down to earth a get ready for a very good and physical Statesboro team,” he said.
Liberty is going to Statesboro at 1-0 overall.
Bradwell is set to travel to Valdosta Friday. Games start at 7:30 p.m.