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Panthers defeat adversity, Lawrence County

Adversity, in the form of injuries and miscues, confronted the Brookhaven Panthers Thursday night in their season opening game against Lawrence County.  Panther senior quarterback Zach Smith didn’t get discouraged  and his teammates responded with a strong second half, defeating the Cougars 34-7 on King Field.

     A large crowd, estimated at 3,000, watched Smith pass for three touchdowns and senior running back Justin Blue rush for two more TDs, breaking open a close game.

     “We got off to a slow start and those injuries hurt us,” said Smith.  Junior defensive tackle Josh Thomas limped off the field with a knee injury less than two minutes into the game. Senior defender A.J. Herring suffered a compound fracture of his left leg on a kickoff with 8:04 remaining in the first quarter and was taken by ambulance to KDMC.

     “We came in at halftime and made some adjustments,” said Smith. “I got comfortable passing the second half. Our offensive line had a great game and a bunch of young playmakers stepped up.”

     Smith hooked up with wide receiver Fred Trevillion, who made a leaping catch in the end zone, for Ole Brook’s first touchdown of the season. Trevillion would later take a 7-yard slant pass from Smith for a fourth-quarter TD, making it 34-zip with 9:17 left in the game.

     Blue led the Panthers with 11 carries for 104 yards. He scored his first TD on a 6-yard plunge over left tackle. Noah Allen’s PAT gave the hosts a 13-0 lead with 9:27 left in the first half.

     “We were faced with a lot of adversity, especially in the first half,” said Ole Brook first-year head coach Tommy Clopton. “We had those two injuries, a fumble and some overthrown passes.

     “We were able to adjust at halftime and we began to dominate on offense and defense as the game went along. I’m proud of our kids and  our coaching staff.”

     Smith’s second TD pass put the Panthers up 20-0 with 2:12 left in the third quarter. He rolled to his left and lofted a pass to tight end Genoa Sartin that was good for 40 yards and a TD.

     On the next series, BHS senior defensive end JaBoree Poole made two tackles for losses. Cougar quarterback Nico McDonald was intercepted by Jonah Hill on a fourth-down pass attempt at Brook’s 26-yard line.

     “It felt good,” said Hill. “That was my first one.”

     From there, the Panthers moved 75 yards in just 3 plays. Smith hit Trevillion for 44 yards and followed with a 20-yard toss to Sartin, setting up Blue’s 11-yard, tackle-breaking burst that saw him doing a somersault across the goal line. It was 27-0 with 11:54 left to play.

     “We got our butts whipped tonight,” said LCHS first-year coach David Parker. “We will regroup and come back Monday. It’s a long season.”

     McDonald ended the scoring draught with a 2-yard plunge off a fake handoff. Will Boyd kicked the extra point.

     The Cougars (0-2) visit Magee next Friday. BHS (1-0) is at Hazlehurst.