In the moments following the Lakeside High School Panthers’ regular season finale loss to Warner Robins, advancing to the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state playoffs didn’t take away the sting of losing.
With their plaoyff fate in their own hands facing the Demons, the Panthers jumped out to a 7-0 halftime lead. The Demons controlled the second half, however, winning 35-7 and taking home the Region 2-AAAAA championship in the process.
The Panthers (6-4, 4-3) entered the night a game behind the Demons (9-1, 6-1) in third place, but would have jumped to second and played host to a state playoff game in Friday’s first round with a win. An Evans win against Northside, Warner Robins would have knocked them out completely, but when Evans lost 35-13, the Panthers were in.
As the region’s No. 3 team, the Panthers will travel to Region 4’s No. 2 team on Friday, November 15.
After playing mistake-free football in the first half, the Panthers turned it over three times on two interceptions and a fumble which the Panthers converted into second-half touchdowns. The Demons took to the ground in stanza, rushing for 180 of their 293 yards and five touchdowns. Danny Hite, Jr. led the charge with 147 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns.
“Things didn’t go our way, we didn’t get off the field when we needed to,” said junior Rashad Roundtree...“The regular season doesn’t matter, we made it to the playoffs and now all we have to do is win.”
While the competition won’t get any easier, it might not get much harder.
“We want to win, but we went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the state of Georgia,” said Panthers head coach Jarrett Troxler. “We ran out of people up front and we were manhandled up front.”
The Panthers held the Demons scoreless in the first half, forcing two turnovers in the process. Roundtree picked off a pass on the Demons first possession, but the Panthers were unable to convert it into points, turning it over on downs at the Demons’ 23..
After Roundtree recovered a fumbled punt at the Demons’ 47 with 1:06 left in the half, it took the Panthers just three plays for Hunter Banks to find BJ Raymond in the right corner of the end zone for a 28-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 44 seconds left in the half.
The Demons came out with the first possession of the third quarter and went 76 yards in 15 plays with Hite, Jr. going in from a yard out to tie the score at 7 with 6:23 left in the quarter.
Offensively the Panthers finished the game rushing for eight yards on 15 carries while Banks was 13-30 for 135 yards a touchdown and two interceptions.
While the Panthers advanced, the season came to a close for other county teams.
In Region 3-AA, the Harlem Bulldogs finished its turnaround season with a final 7-3 record, 3-3 in the region. They needed a win over Laney or a Westside loss to Josey to reach the postseason but got neither, falling 41-0 to Laney.
In Region 2-AAAAA, the Evans Knights (5-5, 3-4 region) had playoff hopes alive, but had to beat a tough Northside, Warner Robins team (9-1, 6-1) to move on. Keeping it close for much of the game, the Knights succumbed in the end, losing 35-13.
The Grovetown Warriors (2-7, 1-6) played host to Jones County (5-5, 3-4) and were blanked 49-0.
In the first round of the South Carolina Independent School Association Class AAA playoffs, the defending champion Augusta Christian Lions (3-8) saw their season halted, losing to Orangeburg Prep (11-1) 24-6.