When some people see the score of Friday night's second-round playoff game between Lakeside and Westside-Macon, they might make a big mistake. They might think Lakeside's vaunted defense wilted under the pressure when finally facing a quality opponent. They could assume Lakeside piled up wins and gaudy numbers playing a weak schedule.
Well, I hope those folks do a little research. If they did, they would see that, though the Panthers lost to Westside-Macon 48-21, this team was the real deal. Before chalking up the loss to Lakeside's defense running into a "real team," keep a few facts in mind:
- Westside-Macon scored two defensive touchdowns before the midway point of the first quarter. There was not much the defense could have done about that.
- Another score came after a kick return to the Lakeside 20-yard line.
- The Panthers came away empty-handed on two drives inside Westside-Macon's 10-yard line, missing a chip-shot field goal and turning the ball over on downs.
- The Panthers played without talented sophomore quarterback Mark Weidenaar, who was found earlier in the week to have a cracked vertebra. Not to take anything away from junior quarterback Ben Wilson, who had a solid season, but Lakeside used the two-quarterback system to perfection this year, and they were definitely affected by Weidenaar's absence. He was playing better each game, and when he wasn't playing quarterback he gave Lakeside an extra threat as a wideout.
- Region 3-AAAA acquitted itself nicely in round one. Last year, all four Region 3-AAAA teams lost in the opening round of the playoffs. That caused many to question the talent level in the region. Well, this year Lakeside and Richmond Academy won their playoff openers, Evans appeared headed to a win before letting its game slip away, and Hephzibah played the Region 2 champion down to the wire.
Looking ahead to next year, though the Panthers will lose Chris Hartfield and Khadi Tshishiku to graduation, they also will bring back several key players. Talented linebacker Kendal Parker and quarterbacks Weidenaar and Wilson all will return.
Lakeside football fans have not had much to cheer for through the years.
Aside from a couple of solid seasons in the early 1990s, the Panthers have usually been in the bottom of the lot in the Augusta area. This year, Panthers fans did enough cheering to get them through the holidays. The team set a school record for wins, picked up its first state playoff win and boasted one of the finest defenses in county history.
When you consider that Lakeside had to replace a three-year starter at quarterback, and that archrival Evans appeared to have a stranglehold on the region crown, if Jody Grooms does not win Georgia Area Coach of the Year we might need to enlist Sheriff Clay Whittle and his staff to conduct an investigation.
So be proud, Panthers. You gave the area plenty to be proud of in 2009.
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