Though it wasn’t always pretty, the Lakeside High School Panthers got the job done when they needed to and held on for their first win of the year Friday night.
Facing the Thomson Bulldogs, the Panthers held a tenuous 17-14 lead with 8:36 to play. The Panthers all but put the game out of reach with a 10-play, 73-yard drive that took 2:45 off the clock with Jonathan Edwards scoring on a two-yard touchdown run. The Panthers would go on to the 23-14 win.
The Panthers (1-1) and Bulldogs (0-1) played a game of giveaway as they each lost three fumbles – both losing two deep in the other’s territory. The Panthers also came up with interceptions by Rashad Roundtree and Ishmael Bethel while their own passing attack fired on all cylinders.
“I thought the kids played great and responded to a lot of adversity,” Troxler said. “I’m going to take it, a win’s a win, especially against a program like that.”
The Panthers got a Luke Harmon 22-yard field goal to open the game, then fell behind 14-3, but that would be the scoring for the Bulldogs as the Panthers offense came storming back.
Quarterback Hunter Banks, who was stellar all night completing 21-of-30 for 264 yards, drove the team to the Bulldogs 15, aided by a 31-yard Joshua Jones run. When Banks got the wind knocked out of him, sophomore Nick Patterson stepped right in and threw a 15-yard strike to BJ Raymond as the Panthers closed the gap to 14-10.
Raymond finished with seven catches for 91 yards while Edwards caught five balls for 90 yards.
That’s when the wheels started coming off for the Bulldogs. They drove to the Panthers 12 but fumbled it away and the Panthers took it 88 yards the other way in seven plays. Banks connected with Forrest Nanney for 29 yards in the left half of the end zone and the Panthers took the 17-14 lead they would not relinquish.
The Panthers lost a golden opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the Bulldogs at the end of the half as they drove from their 29 to the Bulldogs 14. Banks hit Edwards with a swing pass and he took it down to the 2 before fumbling while fighting to reach the end zone.
In the second half, the Panthers defense bent but didn’t break early as they recovered a Bulldogs fumble in their own end zone on the Bulldogs second possession of the half. The Bulldogs proceeded to throw an interception, fumble, punt and throw an interception on their remaining possessions of the second half.
“It gives the offense a lot of confidence because they feel like even though that they’ve turned the ball over, they’ve made a mistake, the big brother defense is going to come in,” said senior defensive end Kendall White. “We’re a team so we don’t point fingers, we go out and execute.”
It was mostly a successful Friday night for Columbia County schools. Augusta Christian (1-1) got its first win of the season, beating Ben Lippen 27-20. Augusta Prep ran its record to 2-0 with a 33-14 pounding of Curtis Baptist. Grovetown evened its record at 1-1 with a 48-14 win over Swainsboro and Harlem stayed perfect, going 2-0 after a 21-7 win over Oglethorpe County. Greenbrier (0-2) took one on the chin, losing to North Augusta 45-0 while the Augusta Eagles fell to 0-3 with a 32-26 loss against Colonial Hills.