BY SCOTTIE CORLEY
The Greenville Standard
Coming off of a regional championship, the Georgiana Panthers came into the start of the 2019 season strong beating St. Luke’s Episcopal 40-14. Head coach Ezell Powell said the team had a few off plays in the game, but overall felt the team played well and was eager to see how the team continued to play in the 2019 season.
“We came out and sort of misplayed things defensively, and St. Luke’s scored on the first play of the ball game for them offensively on a long run,” Powell said. “We got the ball back and sputtered on offense and gave it back to them. The defense held and we got the ball back and scored and from then we sort the defense corrected their mistakes for the most part and we sort of got things going offensively.
“We couldn’t run it as quite as well as we wanted to so we just resorted to throwing the ball. We end up throwing the ball a lot more than I’d ever thought we would, but it worked well for us.”
Powell said several of the team’s key players had a great night on the field for the team’s opener, including Azenda Pennington, who went 17 for 30 with 321 passing yards and three touchdowns according to the team’s head coach. Powell said Pennington also had 13 carries with one resulting in a touchdown as well.
“Azenda had a huge night throwing the ball and running,” Powell said.
But, overall, Powell said the team played well on the field, with several huge fourth down stops, which were key for the Panthers in the game against the Wildcats. Powell also said a screen pass received by Cleandre Walker for the team’s first touchdown of the night helped to ignite the fire the team needed to go on to win the game against St. Luke’s.
“There were a couple of fourth down stops that were big for us defensively that gave us momentum,” Powell said. “Cleandre Walker, he took a screen pass about 70 yards for our first score and that gave us a spark offensively, and when we got that spark offensively.
“From there defensively, we picked up quite a bit and we started to roll a bit from there. The kids started to believe a little bit better and we started to play well.”
Powell said believing was something the Panthers had been focusing on in the off season as the team had lost a majority of its seniors from the 2018 season and looked for its four true seniors and two new seniors to help guide the underclassmen into higher levels of success.
“Losing so many players from last year’s team, there had been a lot negativity of among people for the program,” Powell said. “With people really telling the kids that they wouldn’t do well this year. I our thing all year has been just a belief, you know believing and trusting in what we’ve been doing up to this point and believing yourself.
“Regardless of your age. Whether your freshman up to a senior believe and play your role, and just go out and give just everything you got … So we’re going to go out there with that expectation. That’s what we’ve been really driving home.”
The Panthers will host the Luverne Tigers and Powell said the team welcomes the challenge.
“We look forward to the challenge,” Powell said. “We also know it is a great measuring stick for our team to see where we are in the things that we had to improve on last year. I thought our greatest games came after that loss to Luverne. Last year, because we were ahead in the fourth quarter and in losing the bubble game we learned more in that loss that sort of helped us have a good run down the streets last year than anything else.
“We understand that it’s going to be a tough ballgame, but it’s what we’re looking for because it’s going to really give us a true measurement of where we are right now.”
Ty Mobley, Kobe Peterson and Kendall Long, Powell said, also assisted the team toward the win. “The kids played extremely well collectively. They played with a lot of heart and a lot of passion and I was proud of the efforts that they displayed.”