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4th-quarter rally puts Panthers over Mustangs

Cameron Longmire stiff-armed a defender to the ground on his way to a first down in the Panthers’ 26-21 win over the Isabella Mustangs.

Cameron Longmire stiff-armed a defender to the ground on his way to a first down in the Panthers’ 26-21 win over the Isabella Mustangs.

Another magical fourth quarter from the Georgiana Panthers secured a return trip to the third round of the playoffs with a 26-21 win over the Isabella Mustangs.

Fourteen unanswered fourth-quarter points paved the way, but it was a fumble recovery by Chris Mixon on Isabella’s kickoff return that stoked the Panthers’ fire.

Georgiana head football coach Ezell Powell’s faith in his Panthers’ resilience was such that his halftime speech consisted of a single word.

“When I went in at the half, I just put the word ‘finish’ on the board,” Powell said.

“That’s all we’ve got to do.  Alignment; finish your blocks all the way until the end; receivers, do the same; running backs, run until the end; defense, fly to the football; and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.  So they came out here and did just that.

“The momentum swung for us, and we didn’t give it back.  Right until those last seconds, guys were tired on both sides of the ball, but this group wasn’t going to be denied tonight.  That’s what I love about them, and words can’t describe how proud of them I am right now.”

The Panthers’ offense, led by a relentless effort on the ground from Cameron Longmire, secured two quick touchdowns and the game’s first lead change of the night with just under six minutes left on the clock.

And though it was offense that caught the Panthers up, it was defense that sealed the deal, as Georgiana’s defense held the Mustangs at bay for the remainder of play.

Powell said that the fumble recovery played a large role in the rest of the game’s events.

“After we got the score and that happened, it gave us that spark we needed—that little bit of extra energy,” Powell said. “And the guys just started making plays, and before you knew it we scored.  From that point on, it was all about finishing the ballgame.  They got the ball with about four minutes left in the ballgame and they held them out.

“When the ballgame is on the line, I want my defense on the field.  I want them to hold us up, play their butts off and win us the ballgame, and that’s what they did tonight.”

The Panthers will travel to Linden for the third round of playoff play, and they’ll face a talented, undefeated Patriots team that has recorded five shutouts on the year.  Furthermore, the Patriots have outscored opponents 650-57 this season.

“They’re a good team, but I don’t think we’re bad, either,” Powell said.

“Coach Andro Williams is a good friend of mine, and we talked earlier this week about this matchup and how exciting it would be for both of us if we could get there. And we look forward to getting out there and competing against them.”

The Panthers and the Patriots will face off in Linden Friday.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.