Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

September 21, 2011

Tiftarea has bad case of fumble-itis

AMERICUS — For a change, there’s a team that has fumbled more than Southland this season.

Despite fumbles, the Raiders are 2-2. But for their opponent this week, Tiftarea, the Panthers are 0-4 and have allowed almost 55 points a game.

“I’ve made the comment several times this week that we’re playing somebody that is actually fumbling more than we have,” said coach Tim Goodin. “Theirs is about like ours; they have fumbled about any way possible. Other than fumbles, they’re not a bad football team.”

Southland has lost 12 fumbles this year and has a minus-8 turnover ratio. Tiftarea has turned it over 17 times this season and sit at a minus-11 turnover ratio. Their opponents, which are a combined 14-2, have converted those turnovers into 86 points, according to Panthers coach Marvin Barton.

“We’ve turned the ball over entirely too much this year,” said Barton. “We coach through the week and don’t see any of those real problems cropping up. Then we get in the game, and we have a couple of mishandled snaps, the ball gets loose or something like that. We’re behind the eight ball this year in the turnover ratio. When we let it get away from us and they end up with it, 75 percent of the time those turnovers turn into scores. It’s one of those things that takes the air out of your sails a little bit, and we’re always working to come from behind.”

Only one team — Mount de Sales — has slowed down Southland’s rushing attack this season. The Raiders rushed for 378 yards, but lost four fumbles, in last week’s 34-6 win against Trinity. Minus the fumbles, Goodin said the Raiders can block with the best teams.

Running back Logan Deatherage (hamstring) will also return to the lineup.

“I think our line is solid all the way across from tight end on one side to tackle on the other,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to block anybody we play real well. I think that’s definitely one of the strengths of our team. We’ve got backs that run well straight ahead, which helps us run inside. We’ve got Jake who can hurt with his speed and maneuverability and hurt you outside. With Logan back, that’s more speed, and that certainly will help us.”

Barton said stopping Hood is at the top of their radar, and their lack of size may prove costly. He also said size will be a big difference for the Panthers’ offense.

“Defensively, we’ve struggled to get people stopped,” said Barton. “We’ve gotten a little better every week, but it hasn’t shown up on the scoreboard.

“We’re not really heavy in the britches size-wise — I know everybody deals with size and size doesn’t make you win — but it sure does help on the offensive line.”

Barton said the Panthers need a break, and he hopes it starts Friday.

“We need to break through and have some good things happen for us,” he said. “We’ve got to find a renewed confidence in ourselves.”

Goodin agreed saying, “They’ve just been real snakebit.”

Southland is 5-1 all-time against Tiftarea, winning the last three years by a combined score of 83-21. After losing to Pinewood, the Raiders have to keep up with the Patriots and Bulloch to remain in the region race.

“All region games are big games, and this one is the most important because it’s the next one,” said Goodin. “We’ve got to win every week, that’s the way I’m looking at it. We plan on getting it done.”

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