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Panthers not selling Red Level Tigers short

Friday’s meeting between the Georgiana Panthers and the Red Level Tigers marks a meeting of two teams in very different places.

The Panthers, having clinched the region title with a victory two weeks ago, are sitting pretty atop the Class 1A Region 2 pile.

The Red Level Tigers, on the other hand, are looking to dethrone the current kings of the hill and earn themselves a playoff berth.

Ezell Powell, head coach of the Panthers, said that looking at this year’s Red Level team is a lot like looking at a reflection of the past.

“We understand that they have a lot to play for and they play with a lot more pride than they have in years past, and we know a lot about that ourselves,” Powell said.

“We understand how not to take teams lightly, because some teams last year took us lightly and we had a point to prove.  We know that they’re in that boat, and we want to make sure we give them the respect they deserve so that they don’t sneak up on us.”

Friday is no more or less important to the Panthers than any of the Friday nights that have come before.

The Panthers are undefeated in region play, and they aim to stay that way.

Moreover, Powell added that it’s not the team who holds the best record that finds the most success in the postseason, but rather the team that is playing the best football at the time.

In a sense, that makes Friday’s game arguably more important than those before it.

But the Panthers’ opposition is a Tigers team that is determined to make its first playoff appearance since 2010.

“They execute a bit better than they’ve done in the past,” Powell said.

“Defensively, they play really hard.  On offense, they run the ball hard and they have some explosive kids that make some explosive plays when given the opportunity.”

The Panthers return after a bye week that allowed for an extra week of recuperation, but it also means it’s an extra week not playing against another opponent at full speed.

Despite the double-edged nature of bye weeks, the Panthers found a way to keep the rust off by working Tuesday through Thursday of last week on fundamentals.

Additionally, the resting starters allowed backups to get some quality reps.

And though Zeke Powell is remains out with a high-ankle sprain, the confidence gained by numerous others—including starting quarterback Jacquez Payton— after nursing an injury for an extra week is a bonus that’s difficult to measure.

“That’s what we were sort of hoping for,” Powell said.

“And you can sort of tell already that they’ve enjoyed it and they’re back to feeling like they’re normal selves.”

The Panthers will travel to Red Level to face the Tigers on Friday.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.