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Punt return keys Bayside victory over Panthers

DAPHNE — All it took was a 92-yard punt return and the implosion began.

After jumping out to a 14-6 lead, Bayside quarterback Stephen Ballard single-handedly turned the tables on Georgiana on one play.

The quarterback, who also is the Admirals' kick returner, fielded a Will Langham punt and raced 92 yards down the right sideline to send both teams to the locker room knotted at 14 at the half.

"We go into the half tied up, you look around the locker room and you would have thought we were down 21 points," Panthers coach Greg Ennis said.

That punt return was the one play that sparked Georgiana' self-implosion that was coming in the second half. The Admirals (4-1) tacked on 18 more points and came away with a key 32-14 Region 1, Class 2A win.

"That punt return was a big one for us," Bayside coach D.D. Thompson said. "It tied up the game and gave us the momentum going into the second half."

While Bayside was driving and gaining huge chunks of yardage in the second half, Georgiana's offense was all but nonexistent. Ballard added to the Panthers' defeat by throwing for a touchdown and rushing for another in the second half.

Meanwhile, Georgiana didn't gain a single first down in the third quarter and was held to just nine snaps for the quarter.

"When you have a guy like Zane Stackhouse over there, your best defense is your offense," Thompson said.

Stackhouse rushed for 142 yards on 22 carries against Bayside. But a majority of that, including a 27-yard touchdown run, came in the first half. He was held in check through most of the second half.

"We had a total breakdown on offense, defense and special teams; other than that I thought we played pretty well," Ennis said.

And there's no time to reflect on the loss, either. Georgiana's back was against the wall looking to earn a spot in the playoffs coming into Monday's game with Bayside. Now the Panthers must win out the rest of their region games, including Friday's game against defending 2A champion and still No. 1 Leroy.