Panthers best Wildcats in shootout

Published 10:33 am Monday, September 26, 2016

Georgiana running back Cam Longmire proved an unstoppable force for the Panthers

Georgiana running back Cam Longmire proved an unstoppable force for the Panthers

It wasn’t pretty, but Friday night’s performance was enough for Georgiana and head coach Ezell Powell as the Panthers defended home turf against a talented St. Lukes Wildcats team.

A neck-and-neck scoring race in the first half came to a climax as two consecutive Georgiana touchdowns put enough distance between the two as the Panthers outgunned the Wildcats 56-35.

Though the Panthers held the lead captive for 80 percent of the night, the Wildcats were always hot on their heels thanks to an explosive, unstoppable backfield.

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In fact, Powell considered the Wildcats one of the toughest opponents they’ve faced despite their 1-3 record heading into the game.

“I could look at film and tell they were pretty decent,” Powell said. “Their record doesn’t reflect how good they are.”

One of the biggest game-changers was also perhaps the earliest.  The Wildcats surged nearly unimpeded the length of the field on their very first drive, yet the Panthers’ defense resisted with their backs to the goal line to cut the drive short at the 2-yard line.

Georgiana quarterback Jamichael Stallworth used every tool at his disposal to clear the 98-yard distance for a Panthers touchdown, though the Wildcats answered every score that would follow with one of their own.

But it was a second-half Wildcats turnover that permanently shifted momentum into the Panthers’ favor, despite recovering the ball on a gutsy onside kick at the top of the second half.

Tori Rudolph recovered a crucial fumble that allowed Jamarcus Sims to deliver the dagger and a three-score lead in the third quarter.

“We fought all night,” Powell said.

“We did a great job offensively of moving the ball up and down the field.  And defensively, we bent, but we didn’t break.  We made a couple of key stops in the first half. And in the second half, except for one drive, we held them out of the end zone. 

Despite the 29-21 lead at the half, Powell admitted that the first half belonged to the Wildcats.

“There wasn’t any secret to what they were doing,” Powell said. “They were doing what we had practiced against during the week.  It’s just that they were being more physical up front than we were, and in order for us to win it we had to change that in the second half.  We were a little bit more physical up front, and we got a different result. 

“But it was one of those things where they learned that you can’t take any opponent lightly, no matter when you play them on the schedule. You’ve got to be ready to play on every Friday night.”

That lesson that should equally apply in Red Level next week against another team that can’t be taken lightly. 

Powell said that two factors would dictate the Panthers’ success or failure.

“For one, let’s be physical up front on both sides of the football and dominate the line of scrimmage,” Powell said. “Because if we can’t, it makes it hard for backs running the ball and linebackers getting to the play.

“And then we have to play assignment football.  Offensively, we can’t have a letdown; we’ve got to continue to click and run the football with some assertiveness, and be able to throw it when they stack the box to take the run away from us.”

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