• 54°

Panthers earn first region title in nearly two decades

From left to right:  Demarcus Rich, Dequan Crenshaw and Richard Boggan proved that defense wins championships Thursday as the Georgiana Panthers defeated the Kinston Bulldogs 42-6, clinching the area championship in the process.

From left to right: Demarcus Rich, Dequan Crenshaw and Richard Boggan proved that defense wins championships Thursday as the Georgiana Panthers defeated the Kinston Bulldogs 42-6, clinching the area championship in the process.

For the second time in as many years, the Georgiana Panthers have secured seven wins during the regular season with Thursday night’s 42-6 victory over the Kinston Bulldogs.

Unlike last year’s landmark 2014 season, however, the Panthers have also clinched their first area championship in nearly two decades.

Georgiana head football coach Ezell Powell attributed the win to a complete team effort, especially a dominating first-half defensive performance from the Panthers.

“Defensively, they did an awesome job of holding Kinston,” Powell said.

“They didn’t get a first down all of the first half.  It was three and out every time they touched the ball.  And every time we got it, with the exception of one time in the first half, we scored with it. “

The balanced offensive assault saw Georgiana racking up yardage on the ground and in the air, with leading rusher Cameron Longmire earning 172 yards on 16 carries.

Quarterback JaMichael Stallworth was 8-9 passing for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

His favorite target Thursday night proved to be Gerone Feagin, who reeled in four receptions for 78 yards.

Powell added that he was glad to see his team fight some adversity in the form of early questionable calls on the road, as Thursday and the next two games would prove a small taste of playing in high-stakes games in hostile territory.

Fortunately, the Panthers have a break in the form of a bye week before a game with Red Level on Oct. 23.

“It’s going to be a great time for us to get some guys back to 100 percent, because we’re hoping to be able to make a push here in the playoffs,” Powell said.

“Keeping everybody as healthy as we can keep them is going to be what we need moving forward.”

But the biggest takeaway from the evening was the earning of a first-place region finish.

Powell said that, as a Georgiana native and former member of the Panthers’ team, earning the first region championship in nearly two decades was an achievement he couldn’t put into words.

But he’s hoping that it’s the start of a journey, and not the end of one.

“That’s part of what I envisioned, dreamed and hoped for when I got here, that we can work hard enough and get back to this place,” Powell said.

“To be here in just the third year is really exciting, but a little scary at the same time.  But at the same time, we’re a good enough football team to be where we are, and I just want us to continue to build on what we started, and have the other guys coming in behind to build on that success.”

After a bye week, the Panthers will hit the road to face the Red Level Tigers on Oct. 23.