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Raiders run past Panthers
Summersett tackle
Liberty County's James Summersett (1) wraps up Savannah Christian's Jayden Hester.
Brown carry
Paul Brown (8) struggles to find running room against Savannah Christian's defense in the second half.

POOLER — Turnovers and Savannah Christian’s stingy second-half defense led to a 40-6 defeat in the Liberty County Panthers’ regular season finale at Pooler Recreation Park. With the loss, the Panthers ended the regular season at 6-4 and will face Morgan County on November 12 in the first round. Savannah Christian, 9-1, secured the region’s second spot.

“They made the plays that were there,” Panthers coach Tony Glazer said of the Raiders. “That’s what a good football team will do. If you play a good team and make mistakes, they’ll take advantage of it, and that’s what happened.”

The Raiders twice scored two touchdowns in quick succession, including a pair of scores late in the first half to take control of the game.

Zo Smalls scored on a 10-yard run with 1:28 to go in the first half, and the Raiders recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Three plays later, Tyler Penrose scored on a 5-yard run.

Liberty appeared to strike back on the second-half kickoff, as James Summersett, somehow maintaining his balance, darted through the Raiders coverage for an 83--yard touchdown return. A blindside block call, however, wiped out the score.

“Football is a game of momentum,” Glazer said. “We felt like we should have had the lead going into the half. Even with that, we felt good where we were at. We just had to get field position. We were getting pinned deep. And then when the kickoff (return) got called back, the momentum changed. It took all the momentum out of us.”

The Raiders used a second tandem of quick scores to put the game out of reach in the third quarter.

Paulus Zittrauer hit David Bucey on a 33yard touchdown pass and Zittrauer scored on a 5-yard keeper after the Raiders recovered a Panthers fumble as the Raiders scored twice in less than a minute.

Jayden Hester’s 1-yard run midway through the fourth quarter capped the scoring.

The Raiders took a 2-0 lead when the referees determined Singleton was on his knee as he scooped up a low snap in the end zone. Liberty County got the ball at their own 1-yard line after stuffing the Raiders on fourth-and-goal, ending a 15-play, 66-yard opening drive that chewed up 6:17. Ethan Byrd’s 30-yard field goal gave Savannah Christian a 5-0 lead.

The Panthers grabbed a 6-5 lead on Carlos Singleton’s 1-yard sneak with 7:08 to go in the first half, ending an 11-play drive in which Liberty converted three third downs.

But the Panthers turned the ball over three times, and the Raiders defense held Liberty County to three first downs in the second half. The Raiders defense, behind 6-foot-5, 285-pound sophomore defensive lineman Elijah Griffin, racked up 11 tackles for loss in the second half.

The Panthers had 12 straight plays that either lost yardage or gained no yards in the second half, and the Raiders defense held them to 0 total yards over the last two quarters.

Liberty had three drives start inside its own 20yard line and its best starting position was its own 30.

As deflating as the final half of the regular season’s last game was, Glazer pointed out to his team that the loss doesn’t end their season.

“The message was win, lose or draw, we’re moving on regardless after this one,” he said. “We have the opportunity to play again, and that’s what we want. Win, lose or draw, we have to move on.”

Panthers ready for the postseason road ahead

Liberty County Panthers will see if a rigorous regular season schedule can help them pass the test of the playoffs.

The Panthers begin the Class AAA state playoffs as the No. 3 seed from Region 3-AAA and will travel to Madison to face the Morgan County Bulldogs on Saturday.

Liberty went 6-4 in the regular season, facing two teams ranked in the top four in their respective classifications — No. 3 ranked Calvary Day in AAA and No. 4 ranked Pierce in Class AA — and another team ranked as high as ninth in its class, Savannah Christian.

Add scrimmage partner Jenkins, which is in the Class AAAAA playoffs, and the Panthers already have faced a gauntlet of postseason teams.

“That’s the position you want to be in,” Panthers coach Tony Glazer said. “You want to get in there, and anything can happen. You’d like to be home, but we’re excited about the opportunity to get out on the road.”

A win over Savannah Christian would have meant the No. 2 seed and at least one home playoff game for the Panthers. As it stands, they likely will be on the road for the duration in their playoff journey.

“We’re in the position we wanted to be at the beginning of the season, which is to extend our season,” Glazer said. “Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen.”

Morgan County enters the playoffs at 7-3, having dropped the regular season finale for the Region 2-AAA championship to Harlem 34-17. That loss also snapped a four-game winning streak for the Bulldogs, who averaged 41 points per game in that run.

Quarterback Talan Fuller has thrown for more than 1,190 yards, including a 265-yard effort against Cross Creek, and 13 touchdowns. Senior Jacere Cooper has more than 1,300 yards rushing and has racked up 15 touchdowns. Jayden Dorsey has scored 10 TDs. TJ Thompson leads the Bulldogs with 31 receptions for 705 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Carlos Singleton has thrown for more than 1,700 for the Panthers, with 14 touchdowns. Paul Brown has more than 600 yards rushing and leads the Panthers with eight rushing TDs. James Summersett has seven receiving touchdowns and Ron Golden has four.

The Panthers have to shake off a disappointing and lopsided loss in the regular season finale to Savannah Christian, but Glazer points out to his players that truly is a one-week season from this point forward.

“The kids should be proud of what we accomplished in the regular season,” he said. “We play in a very tough region. We’ll go as far as we can go. We’re going to give it our best shot, that’s for sure.”

Kickoff at Bill Corry Stadium is set for 4 p.m.

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