After a tight, last-second defeat to Effingham County on Oct. 8, Lakeside stood at 1-2 in Region 2B-AAAA.
The Panthers' other subregion loss, Sept. 24 to Statesboro, and a Sept. 3 loss to Thomson, both came in identical heartbreaking fashion.
However, first-year coach Jarrett Troxler has said all along that the defining characteristic of his team is its ability to fight through adversity.
On Friday against rival Evans, Lakeside showed that fight throughout a 30-0 road shutout. In doing so, the Panthers earned the subregion's No. 3 seed and a shot at the state playoffs.
"This week, our kids accepted a challenge," Troxler said. "They did a great job of not worrying about everything else that was going on. It was great."
Lakeside (4-5, 3-2 region) will play at South division No. 2 seed Ware County on Friday, with the winner earning a state playoff berth.
The defeat knocked Evans (5-4, 2-3) out of the top three, ending the Knights' chances at making the state playoffs. Their final game will come at Liberty County on Friday.
"I thought we'd come back," Evans coach Marty Jackson said of the 24-0 halftime deficit. "Even at halftime, I didn't know if we could come back and win, but I thought we'd see a fight.
"We did fight, but they took it to us."
Lakeside quarterback Ben Wilson was efficient in the first half. For the game, he was 12-for-20 for 139 yards.
Running back Johnathan Long had a breakout performance. He ran for 123 of his 173 yards before halftime, highlighted by a 66-yard run in the second quarter. He also ran for a 10-yard touchdown.
"This is my first ... varsity season as a starter, and I really thought it was due time," Long said. "I wanted this really bad, and I just felt like I owed it to my coaches and my teammates."
Wilson found Tony Sigee on an 8-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring. Jonathan Andre added a 30-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Ben Hunt kicked three field goals, including two in the second half.
The Panthers were in the backfield all night, holding Evans to just 7 rushing yards on 23 carries and forcing three lost fumbles.
Evans quarterback Glenn Cassedy found success in the passing game, at one point completing eight consecutive passes in the first half. For the game, he finished 17-for-25 for 188 yards.
With Lakeside holding a big lead, its defense closed out the game strong, as Jon Zumbro and Jacob Lane intercepted Cassedy passes in the fourth quarter.
Bulldogs dominate Warriors
When the dust settled after the first quarter, Thomson had scored three touchdowns against Grovetown.
With a big lead early, the Bulldogs had no trouble earning a 42-14 win over the Warriors to earn a spot in the Region 3-AAA championship game against Burke County.
For the Warriors, a state playoff berth is still within their grasp. To get it, Grovetown must defeat powerhouse Washington County on the road.
On Friday, the fourth quarter provided a silver lining for Grovetown. Running back Jamal Cummings threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Travon Biggers for the team's first score. Cummings later scored from 6 yards out on a run with 3:21 to go.
Xavier Crain had 112 rushing yards for Grovetown.
Blue Devils start strong against 'Pack
Statesboro scored on its first three drives in a 31-7 victory over Greenbrier.
The Blue Devils' triple-option attack put up 249 rushing yards, while the Wolfpack managed 97. Jahvon Hardrick led the way for Greenbrier, with 98 yards on 18 carries and a 3-yard touchdown run.
Scott Reeder, back after missing much of the season because of a broken collarbone, completed seven of nine passes for 98 yards.
Bulldogs' comeback attempt falls short
Harlem trailed by 13 going into the second half and nearly came back for a victory before falling 25-24 to Josey.
Taylor Mills scored two touchdowns -- a 4-yard run in the first quarter and a 71-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter. The latter gave the Bulldogs momentum, bringing them within six points.
Harlem added two more second-half touchdowns. Tyler Thigpen scored on a 1-yard run, then Zach McIntire scored on a 1-yard run with 5:14 remaining.
After missing their first three extra-point attempts, the Bulldogs opted to go for a two-point conversion on the final score. The pass failed, giving Josey a one-point win.
Lions shut out by state's top team
Hammond, the top-ranked team in SCISA's AAA classification, amassed 392 yards in a 35-0 victory over Augusta Christian.
Tyler Roberson completed 14 of 19 passes for 84 yards and ran for 21 yards.
The Lions play at Ben Lippen on Friday in the first round of the playoffs.
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