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Panthers seek first 10-0 season since ’94

Georgiana junior Jamichael Stallworth, senior Jaden Longmire and the rest of the Panthers will face a tough Houston County Lions team for its final region game and, potentially, a chance at a 10-0 season.

Georgiana junior Jamichael Stallworth, senior Jaden Longmire and the rest of the Panthers will face a tough Houston County Lions team for its final region game and, potentially, a chance at a 10-0 season.

The Georgiana Panthers have already made history this season with its second consecutive region championship, but they could also secure a perfect season with a win Friday.

But it’s much easier said than done, according to head football coach Ezell Powell, as the Panthers face a Houston County Lions team who is more than capable of dashing Georgiana’s hopes.

For Powell, there are myriad reasons why the Lions, a new face in Class 1A’s Region 2, pose a very real threat.

“For one, they’re very athletic,” Powel said. “Any time you have athletes, you have the potential to be in a tough ballgame because all it takes is one or two players playing well that night, or they find a favorable matchup to exploit that could lead to a long night.

“And they have an offensive scheme with a lot of zone read, and a couple of athletic receivers outside that they throw the ball to.  And defensively, they’re really quick.  When the ball is snapped, they run to the football and they get there in a hurry.  So unlike a lot of opponents that we’ve faced, they have just as much quickness and speed as we do.  So we have to be able to execute better if we plan on controlling the ballgame.”

Another factor for success in the 11th hour of the regular season is injury management, and the Panthers have been luckier than most small schools in that regard.

“We’re still a little dinged up in certain areas, but we’re healthier than we were,” Powell said.

“Hopefully Cameron Longmire is back to 85 or 90 percent, and we have a couple of other guys that are sort of banged up a little bit, and they’re trying to work through their injuries along with the rest of them.  But other than that, I think we’re sitting in a pretty good position with this ballgame, and a bye week next week will give us another opportunity to rest up a bit more.”

The importance of the bye week, and its convenient placement as a cushion of sorts between the regular season and the playoffs, can’t be understated.

“It allows us to get some our guys who are dinged up to heal up for a playoff run,” Powell added. “It plays in rather nicely for us, so we’ve just got to take advantage of the opportunity and be able to execute our gameplan against whoever we play.”

An undefeated season would be the first for Georgiana in more than two decades.  But as far as Powell is concerned, that’s hardly the only reason why Friday could prove a momentous occasion.

“It’s just ironic that last time we had one, I was in high school,” Powell said.

“It’s funny how karma works; this is my son’s senior year in high school, and we have an opportunity to repeat that type of success here in Georgiana.  It’s sort of bittersweet to do it as a player, and then come back and watch your son lead his group into doing the same thing again after such a long time has been a real joy.”

The Panthers look to become the first undefeated team since 1994 against Houston County on the road Friday.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.