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Local football squads looking to improve records as season closers draw nearer

By MICHAEL MURRAY

It was another tough week for local football teams last weekend, as both the Americus-Sumter High School (ASHS) Panthers and the Southland Raiders squared off against some hard-nosed opponents. The Panthers traveled to Cairo to battle longtime rivals, the Syrupmakers, while the Raiders took the field in Americus to continue their ongoing feud with the Deerfield-Windsor Knights.
The Panthers fell behind early in their road match and couldn’t manage to claw their way into the lead, eventually taking a 36-21 loss. The Raiders suffered a similar fate, falling 34-21 to the visiting Knights.
In the Americus-Sumter match-up, the Panthers scored in the first frame when quarterback, AJ Payne, blasted through Cairo’s defensive line on a 65-yard keeper, resulting in a touchdown. ASHS place kicker, Carlos Hernandez, then nailed the first of three successful point-after attempts to bring the Panthers’ tally to seven.
The Panthers’ second score of the game came in the third quarter when Payne found receiver, Sage Finch, in the end zone and connected on a six-yard pass. Stephon Luster brought the Panthers’ total to 20 in the fourth quarter, when he grabbed a fumble at Cairo’s 27 yard-line and hightailed it into the end zone. Hernandez’s PAT kick landed the Panthers at 21 points, where they would stay until the game’s conclusion.
The Panthers covered 169 yards through the air in the contest, with Payne accounting for 119 on 14 completions. Kierston Harvey connected on six passes to add 50 yards for the Panthers.
Payne led the team on the ground, collecting 86 rushing yards on nine carries. Kobe Lewis added 31 yards on eight totes while Finch contributed 18 yards on his sole attempt. Luster added another 12 yards on four carries.
Jacquez Bartley led the team’s receivers with 58 yards on five catches, followed closely by Braelin Williams, who caught five passes for 48 yards. Daveon Johnson added another 44 yards on his six catches and Finch brought down three passes for 14 yards.
For a complete recap of the Southland Raiders’ match-up against Deerfield-Windsor, please see the Oct. 1 edition of the Times-Recorder.
What’s next:
The Southland Raiders will be looking to snag their first region victory of the season on Oct. 7, when the Valwood Valiants travel to Americus for a tilt at Harvey Simpson Field.
At 3-2, the Valiants have made a strong showing so far this season, recently dealing a 27-23 defeat to the previously-undefeated Brookwood Warriors.
According to reports, Valwood has shown that they have a very strong running game, led by backs, Cam Walker and Tai Hatcher, who were instrumental in the team’s upset of Brookwood.
In order to grab the region win, the Raiders will likely need to focus on stopping these two runners, as well as Valwood’s junior quarterback, William Clifton, who has been working alongside these two to help lead the team in their successful season.
Following a week to rest, the Panthers will be hosting a new region opponent (but a very familiar foe), the Shaw Raiders of Columbus, on Oct. 14. The Raiders will be entering the contest with a 1-5 record and will be looking to turn their luck around and earn their first region victory.
The outlook looks good for the Panthers who, last season, faced the Raiders in Americus, taking a 65-49 victory in the non-conference slugfest.
That’s certainly not to say that grabbing the victory for the Panthers will be easy, however. Shaw receiver, Nick Beason, has been putting up some impressive numbers this season, as has the Raiders’ starting quarterback, Andrew Tillery.
Despite what the team’s record might suggest, the Raiders will be no pushover, and the Panthers would do well not to underestimate them. If ASHS brings all of their talents to the field and gives 100 percent of their effort, they will likely be able to pull out a win in the contest.
The Schley County Wildcats will be coming off of a week-long break on Oct. 7 to head to Butler and face the Taylor County Vikings. For a preview of this contest, please see the Sept. 28 edition of the Times-Recorder.