Panthers, Tigers renew rivalry Friday

Published 3:57 pm Thursday, October 12, 2017

The biggest rivalry in Butler County is set to kick off Friday.

The Georgiana Panthers seek to stay undefeated as they travel to the most hostile of territories just eight miles down the road to face the McKenzie Tigers.

The Tigers seek their third win and, much more importantly, their second region win in a competitive Class 1A Region 2 setting. 

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Though region success has eluded McKenzie in recent weeks, head Georgiana football coach Ezell Powell insists that those struggles are all the more reason why he expects potentially the biggest fight of the season in the Tigers Friday.

“The kids play extremely hard,” Powell said. “They fight all the way to the end.  They’ve been plagued with injuries that have really crippled their season, but even the young guys they put in there don’t have any quit in them. 

“And when you have teams that play like that—and when we don’t play like we should—we could end up in a tough ballgame.  And you also have to consider that it’s a rivalry game, and so the records really don’t matter.  Those kids are going to play hard, simply because it’s McKenzie against Georgiana.”

For the Tigers, the Georgiana Panthers aren’t just the undefeated, No. 3 ranked team in the state.  They’re also the team from down the road who stole a sizable first-half McKenzie lead in last year’s meeting between the two.

McKenzie head football coach Tony Norris has a better view than most coaches on what makes the Panthers tick, if only due to the proximity of the two programs.

He said that the key to victory this year would lie in neutralizing Georgiana’s most athletic threats.  The problem, he added, is that this year’s Panther team is full of them.

“And Coach Powell knows how to take those athletes and use them,” Norris said. “Jamichael [Stallworth] is a very good quarterback.  He’s a dual-threat quarterback who can throw it really far down the field, and he can also run it.  They’ve got big, physical receivers.  Jamarcus Sims is a physical kid. We just have to come out and match that physicality.

“We’re going to have to try to do some things to keep them off balance.  At the end of the day, I’m challenging our guys to come out and play hard.  Throw all the records out of the window.  At the end of the day, it’s a region ballgame, and any region win would be a sight for sore eyes.”

Powell said that the McKenzie roster presents more than a few challenges to the Panthers, including a pair of large and physical receivers in Quindario Lee and Jacquez Smith.

“At that position, they’re bigger than we are,” Powell said. “We worry about the size advantage they do have.  One way to neutralize it means doing a great job of pass rushing.

“Even if they do catch it, we have to do a great job of just getting them on the ground and living to play another down.”

The Panthers and the Eagles will renew their rivalry Friday in McKenzie.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.