The Liberty County football team kicks off its regular season at 7:30 tonight by facing the Effingham County Rebels at Donell Woods Stadium.
Senior quarterback Walker Franklin has been tapped to lead the offense, Panther head coach Kirk Warner said. Franklin transferred from Wayne County High School about a month ago and made an immediate impact on Liberty’s offense. He primarily played wide receiver last year at Wayne County, but backed up quarterback Malique Jackson, who’s now a freshman at Florida State.
“(Franklin) has good senior presence and good pocket presence, and he doesn’t make many mistakes,” Warner said.
Warner feels confident in Franklin’s ability to read coverage and make plays, but there were other areas of the offense that needed some tweaking this week.
“We are making sure we are getting the timing down on the snaps and that we are hitting our blocking assignments. Those are the things that really killed us last Friday (in their 9-7 scrimmage loss to South Effingham), so we placed emphasis on that this week,” the coach said.
The Panthers’ defensive focus should be the Rebels’ returning senior running back Nieem Bartley. In last week’s scrimmage against Screven County, Bartley scored on a 66-yard touchdown on the Rebels’ first offensive play of the game and tallied 77 yards on four rushes. The Rebels put up 199 rushing yards and passed for 36 yards, led primarily by Jake Dangerfield.
The Rebels’ backup quarterback, Philip Brown, poses a threat as well, as he can run the ball efficiently and can line up as a wide receiver.
On the other side of the ball, however, Warner said the Rebels have several defensive players being scouted by colleges.
“The first thing you notice about their defense is that they are physical,” he said.
The coach added that if he was to compare the Rebels to a team they played last year, it would be Westover, the Panthers’ opponent in the first round of the state playoffs.
“And you know how that went,” Warner said, referring to LCHS’ 27-7 loss.
However, the Panthers bring some defensive excellence of their own. Sophomore defensive back Richard LeCounte recently was named by Maxpreps.com as one to watch for his class’ national player of the year honor. He and Calvin Holmes had great defensive plays last week, both nearly getting interceptions. The Panther defense held the Mustangs to 136 yards in the scrimmage.
The Panthers can put in backup quarterback Jaalon Frazier if needed.
He also showed poise in the pocket and has great speed and maneuverability. Senior JaMarcus Latson scored last week’s touchdown, showing a burst of speed and power to break through the front line of the Mustangs’ defense.
Warner added he feels good about their kicking game despite a missed field goal in last week’s scrimmage. It was another issue with the snap more so than senior Joaquin Lemapu’s kick.
The Panthers had a chance for a go-ahead field goal late in the scrimmage, but instead went for the touchdown on fourth-and-short. The Mustangs stuffed the run in the backfield.