Lakeside High School assistant football coach Jarret Troxler looked relieved as Panthers players huddled and took a knee Friday.
Troxler, who served as interim head coach during Jody Grooms' suspension, had just sweated through Lakeside's 14-7 win against rival Greenbrier and salvaged a split of the two games Grooms sat out.
"This has been the most stressful two weeks of my life," Troxler said. "I love Coach Grooms to death. I couldn't drop two in a row."
Grooms will return to the sideline Friday for the first time since the Panthers ran an illegal play during the final regular-season game of 2007. The play cost Grooms his athletic director title and the first two games of the season.
He'll return Friday with a 1-1 record after the Panthers' defense shutout Greenbrier for the final two quarters Friday.
Greenbrier coach Brian Smith's team was held to one first down in the second half, and a third-quarter turnover led to the go-ahead score.
Troxler credited new defensive coordinator John Creager for adjustments made at halftime. It was a sharp contrast to a week before, when the Panthers held Evans scoreless the first two quarters only to lose by allowing the Knights three second-half touchdowns.
"We didn't play the best we could (against Evans) and look what happened," Lakeside linebacker Kyle Tudor said. "If we do what we're supposed to, we should be fine."
Troxler said the Panthers had been "smacked in the mouth" the week before during the loss to Evans and wanted to prove they could run the ball.
Lakeside carried 35 times for 225 yards and controlled the clock in the second half.
Panthers quarterback Chad Chandler provided the game's most exciting play, breaking free from the 'Pack in the middle of the field and racing 49 yards down the right sideline before diving into the end zone for a score.
The Wolfpack had trouble kick-starting their trio of Bryan Andrews, Kendrick Wilson and D.J. Hall. Greenbrier ran for more than 300 yards the week before against Harlem. But Friday, with Wilson back from a concussion suffered in Week 1, the Wolfpack were held to 3.1 yards a carry.
The Wolfpack were also done in by a fluke third-quarter turnover. Quarterback Blake Ross's third down pass went through the hands of receiver Ben Turner and was snatched out of the air by Lakeside's Michael Paul, who returned it to the Greenbrier 15. Lakeside punched in the go-ahead score three plays later.
Greenbrier's focus now shifts to the Region 2-AAAA slate ahead. The Wolfpack finished 1-2 against their Columbia County rivals.
"They're rival games, so they were important to us," Smith said. "Now it's us and everybody in Atlanta."
Grooms first game back will be at home against Glenn Hills, which beat Harlem 20-7 last week.
Bulldogs suffer loss to Glenn Hills
Harlem dropped its first game in four years to Glenn Hills.
The Spartans returned two fourth-quarter interceptions for touchdowns and beat Harlem 20-7. The Bulldogs had won the last three in the series.
Harlem recovered a late fumble to have a chance, down 13-7 with a little less than two minutes remaining. But Spartans defensive back Thomas Jones returned an interception 47 yards for another touchdown to seal it.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.