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Panthers prepare for Saint Jude Pirates, playoffs

For the seniors on the Georgiana Panthers squad they had one mission this season: prove the doubters wrong.

Friday night they did just that and with a little help from Southern Choctaw High School have found themselves a spot in the postseason.

But before they can begin to prepare for their first round opponent, Luverne, the Panthers have a squad of Pirates coming to town.

The Pirates are having a character-building year.

They are 1-8 on the season, however, they were a dropped pass away from upsetting Isabella, but came up short. Saint Jude fell to Isabella 42-36 in double overtime.

"It was a tough game," said Ricky Cotton, coach of the Pirates. "We've got a lot of people injured right now. Friday night, we had a chance to win. But we had a pass dropped in the first overtime that would have given us the win. It was just a tough hard fought game. We got inside their 10 twice and didn't score. The biggest problem we have is that we have a lot of people injured. We started the season off a good football team, but the injuries. Just trying to finish out the season right now. I hope they don't blow us out Friday."

The Panthers are coming into this weekend's game fresh off a 42-35 victory over Washington County.

The Panthers and the Bulldogs combined for over 500 yards of total offense, with both squads feature backs having rushing numbers north of 200 yards. For the Panthers, Douglas Stackhouse finished with 382 yards rushing on 25 carries.

On the other side of the ball, the 2A back of 2003 Tim Hicks carried for 228 yards on 21 touches.

Washington County's wingback David Humphrey also joined in on the track meet, carrying the ball 12 times for 113 yards. The performances by both backs garnered them mention in Monday's AHSAA's Prep Spotlight.

"We had a big win last week and we are certainly not overlooking them," said Keith York, coach of the Panthers. "Every time we have played them in the past, they have been a very athletic football team and we are not going to over look them. When you over look a team that's when something bad happens. "

This week, the Panthers will not have the task of stopping the run. St. Jude's offense is right the opposite. They throw.

"We throw the ball a lot, but we've dropped a lot of touchdowns," Cotton said.

For the Panthers, this is the first time they've had a chance to line up against a pass-based team.

"It seems like we've been dreaming about the Wing-T for the past two months now because that's all we've seen, just about," York said. "But we need to see something like this. Our defensive backs need to see this in live game situations. It's hard to simulate it in practice unless you have someone out there slinging the ball every play. Maybe that will help us get better."

York also realizes the potential havoc an offense of this type can wreak on a novice defensive unit.

"They are a wide open offense," York said. "They spread that thing out and throw it all over the field. They are going to test our db's out and throw it all over the field. I don't know much about them other than they have a good quarterback. We have to get some pressure on their quarterback, everything I've heard about him he's a really good athlete and we can't let him stand back there and pick us apart."

For the Panthers, Friday night is also their homecoming game with festivities slated to start at halftime of the game.

Last week finished regional play for all Alabama High School Athletic Association teams. In Class 2 A Region 1, Leroy won the championship and claimed home field for the first round. They will play host to Highland Home.

Red Level finished No. 2 claiming the runner-up title and a meeting with Beulah.

Southern Choctaw knocked off Excel to secure themselves a No. 3 finish and a road trip to Marbury.

Southern Choctaw's victory also guaranteed the winner of the Georgiana vs. Washington County game a playoff berth and a No. 4 finish. Georgiana posted the victory and by default, they will travel to face Luverne, the Region 3 champion.

The Tigers also are the 2A runners-up from a year ago.