Lakeside ended spring football practice Friday with a scrimmage in front of a sizable crowd.
The Panthers will start the 2008 season without coach Jody Grooms, who was suspended for two games after running an illegal play during the final game last season.
If the Panthers are concerned, it didn't show.
The players whooped and hollered, and coaches joined in on the fun during the school's first-ever spring game, which ended in a 12-12 tie.
"We're family," Grooms said. "I think it strengthens us. All the kids know how I feel about them."
Lakeside coaches held a mock draft to determine teams for the game. The score was 12-0 at the end of regulation, but two touchdowns were scored during the mysterious fifth quarter to end the game in a tie.
Lakeside's C.J. Marshall scored on an 11-yard touchdown run, and three different Panthers receivers grabbed touchdown passes to highlight the scoring.
The Panthers finished 3-7 during Grooms' first season. They'll be playing in a new-look Region 3-AAAA next season, and Marshall said the goal is a 10-0 season and region title.
The Panthers return two-year starter Chad Chandler at quarterback.
"We got a strong team," Marshall said. "We got a lot of returning players."
Marshall set up his scoring run Friday with a scramble of more than 70 yards. Grooms said once Marshall gets his legs with summer workouts, he should be good to go.
"He's doing well," Grooms said. "He's still not where he needs to be conditioning wise. But he's got big-play capability."
Marshall's big runs fired up his teammates and coaches. There was constant chatter throughout the scrimmage, more encouraging than chastising.
Marshall and teammate Kyle Tudor said the Panthers' coaches have created a relaxed atmosphere.
"It's like a friend in a coach," Tudor said. "You relate with them."
The Panthers will be without Grooms when they open the season at region-rival Evans and then play Greenbrier to open the home schedule.
Tudor said Grooms' absence will inspire the players to try to win for their coach. Marshall had a little fun with it.
"If we lose those two games, we're going to go 8-2," he joked.
Grooms said he's tried to use his situation as a lesson to others.
"Sometimes, we make decisions that aren't good decisions," Grooms said. "I just made a poor decision."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.