The yardage totals weren't lopsided -- 274 for Lakeside to 205 for Glenn Hills -- and the Panthers turned the ball over one more time than their opponents.
But Friday night came down to which team would take advantage of its opportunities, and the Panthers did just that. One such opportunity was disguised as early adversity, coach Jarrett Troxler said.
Germaine Tait put Glenn Hills ahead just 90 seconds in on a 68-yard touchdown run to steal the early momentum.
"Glenn Hills came out (quick)," Troxler said. "I told them, 'Guys, just survive that first surge.'"
The Panthers heeded Troxler's words, withstanding the early punch, establishing a lead, then exploding for three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 36-7 victory over the Spartans in both teams' season opener.
The game marked the first as head coach for both Troxler and Glenn Hills' Anthony Young.
Though the Spartans (0-1) didn't score again before halftime, they continued to run the ball effectively, finishing with 152 rushing yards in the half.
Quarterback Kendrick Armstrong ran for 85 first-half yards, including a 51-yard marathon run in which he started right, then stepped back and beat several defenders by switching fields all the way to the left sideline.
The Spartans got a stop on defense after their touchdown but made a critical mistake on their next offensive possession, leaving the door open for the Panthers. Tait lined up to punt the ball, but the snap went over his head. He was brought down at his own 9-yard line after a 22-yard loss.
The Panthers (1-0) took advantage immediately, as senior Jonathan Andre scored on a run on the first play of the drive to tie the game.
Lakeside forced a three-and-out on the next possession, gaining good field position. This time, it took two plays to score, as quarterback Ben Wilson found fellow senior Ben Brooks in the back right corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.
The Panthers' defense adjusted after halftime, preventing the Spartans from gaining any ground with the running game. Wilson, Lakeside's offensive leader, credited the defense with a big-time performance.
Lakeside added on early in the fourth quarter. First, Johnathan Long caught a 7-yard TD pass from Wilson, then Long ran 13 yards for another score.
Down by 23, Glenn Hills turned to the passing game but couldn't get it off the ground. Armstrong twice found open receivers who got behind the Lakeside secondary, but neither receiver could corral the pass. Armstrong finished 4-for-13 passing for 30 yards and an interception.
Lakeside junior linebacker Danny Leonardi punctuated the victory with a 20-yard interception return after a pass was batted into the air.
"We've got a lot of people hurt right now," Leonardi said. "I feel like, once we get everyone back, we're going to build up and become a good team."
Troxler said standout senior linebacker Kendal Parker, Lakeside's leader on defense, is week-to-week and could play Friday at Thomson if he continues to heal from a leg injury.
Junior quarterback/wide receiver Mark Weidenaar is lost for the season after he tore his ACL in a preseason scrimmage against Richmond Academy.
Wilson finished with 97 yards passing and 27 yards on the ground. Long led the Panthers with 63 rushing yards.
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