What a difference a year can make.
A year ago, Lakeside High School took a young team to the Palmetto State Showdown at Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C. Those Panthers finished 4-5-1 in the 7-on-7 tournament.
The Panthers returned to the sixth-annual, 20-team tournament Friday and Saturday and put on a show, advancing to the semifinals. The run ended there when they bowed out to eventual champion and host school Byrnes, 19-14, finishing 8-4.
Byrnes won the tournament for the fourth time.
Panthers head coach Jarrett Troxler was proud of his team and thought a year’s experience made the biggest difference.
“A lot of it is guys playing in our varsity system and understanding what we want out of our routes and understanding the defense and just overall playing together,” said Troxler, who added they were just excited to be competing with top teams in the nation.
With an automatic bid to the National Select 7-on-7 Championship in Hoover, Ala., July 24-26 on the line, the Panthers kept the pressure on Brynes until the very end. Trailing 19-14, senior wide receiver Jonathan Edwards caught a pass from quarterback Hunter Banks and got out of bounds 20 yards from the end zone with apparently a second to play.
It was ruled that time had expired, however, and the Panthers were denied one last shot at the win.
“I think we could have won if we had one more play,” said Edwards, who was a 2012 All-County selection after catching 46 passes for 615 yards and three touchdowns with 437 rushing yards and five touchdowns. “I just couldn’t get out of bounds in time. I thought we had one second left on the clock, but I guess we didn’t.”
Stephen Houzah started at cornerback for the Panthers as a sophomore last year, but will be moved to safety in 2013. He played in the 2012 tournament and enjoyed the experience of being there again with his teammates.
“The best thing was just having fun, just playing together,” said Houzah. “You can only play with this group of guys for so long.”