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Panthers set for regional Catfight

Every game from this point on is huge.

Georgiana High School fell to Red Level Friday night, dropping them to 2-3 in the region.

"I thought we played an outstanding defensive football game," said Keith York, coach of the Georgiana Panthers. "They had to punt most of the night. The times they did score, we had fumbled. They scooped one up around the 50-yard line and ran it down to about the 15-yard line. They scored from there, and it was 7-0. With about 2:00 to go in the first half they punted the ball to us and we muffed the punt. They recovered on about the 19 and they scored to make it 14-0 with about 30 seconds to go in the half."

Despite the deficit, the Panthers found a way to keep Red Level in check in the second half.

"I think our guys played tremendously hard," York said. "Defensively, they never really moved the ball on us. It took us until the second half to get our running game going. We actually completed some passes that helped us out. Had a couple of questionable calls that went against us. I thought we played a good game.

I thought everybody on the football team played hard. We were kind of dejected a little bit, down 14-0 to nothing at halftime. But I made them realize how they got their 14 points."

The loss to Red Level provided the Panthers with their second regional loss of the season.

A loss to Excel this week will knock the Panthers out of playoff contention.

A win, however, and the Blue machine is back in contention for another week.

"Excel runs the Wing-T. They are big upfront. They are a hard-nosed, grind-it-out football team that is extremely well coached. They can't get into the playoffs, York said. "They are coming here to play the spoiler. They've beaten us the past two years in the row. Right now I'm letting our kids know that they have to work hard this week. We are going to ball control. We want to control the football and not turn it over."

Excel is coming into Friday night's game off a big regional win. The black and old gold Panthers knocked off the Flomaton Hurricanse 49-0.

"We basically played a good game," said Jody Jones, coach of the Excel Panthers. " We dominated all three areas, offense, defense and special teams.

But their team is kind of down this year from their usual strength."

"This for Georgiana is probably a little bit bigger than it is for us," Jones said. "They win out and they have some teams lose then they have a chance to mathematically get into the playoffs. Mathematically we are both still in it, it's still something we have to play for, plus we want to win out and get our record 6-4. Plus we've beaten them the last two years."

Their opponents Friday night also used the Hurricanes for whipping boys.

Making it 99 points that Flomaton has given up in the past two weeks.

So far, Excel has lost to Red Level, Leroy, Washington County and Bayside Academy.

Georgiana downgraded the Flomaton Hurricanes to a strong wind with a 50-0 victory.

"We are knocking on the door. We played Leroy close, 15-7, and they are in the top 10. Southern Choctaw was either honorable mention or either top 10 one. We are knocking on the door. Got to find a way this weekend against Excel to keep our playoff hopes alive.

"Athletically, their defense plays tough and they have played some teams in the region close," Jones said. "They played Leroy close and played Red Level close. Friday night's going to be a war. I think we match-up well. They have an advantage in speed, but we are a little bigger."

Excel will be led on defense by their senior linebacker Seth Mack. Though seven games Mack has wracked up 93 tackles, including 14 against the Hurricanes.

On the other side of the ball, the Panthers will rely on what Jones has phrased his "one-two punch," Justin Whatley and Josh House.

House had 13 carries for 122 yards. Whatley had 11 carries for 55 yards and three touchdowns.

One of the td's came on a punt return, a 35-yard scamper through the defense for the score.

"Neither of those backs are comparable with the McMeans kid at Georgiana," said Jones. "He's right up there with the kid from Washington County and the kid from Red Level. They are all the cream of the crop when it comes to running backs."

Friday night's kick is set for 7 p.m.

The Panthers have two games remaining on their schedule following this one. Next week they will be at home against Washington County in their final regional matchup of the year. Their final game of the season will be the first Friday in November. That will also be homecoming for the Panthers when they play host to the 1A St. Jude Pirates.