Panthers start Seagle era off hot

Published 12:13 am Saturday, August 26, 2023

LAFAYETTE — If you missed the first 30 seconds of Friday night’s Lanett-Notasulga game, you probably didn’t believe the scoreboard was functioning properly. 

Both teams ran their opening kickoffs back for a touchdown, leading to early fireworks on the opening night of the season for both teams.

For Notasulga, the opening kickoff was the lone highlight of the entire night — roughly 10 seconds of euphoria followed by 47 minutes and 50 seconds of stifling Lanett defense dominating the line of scrimmage.

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The Panthers answered the Blue Devils opening score with four consecutive touchdowns in a 28-6 rout. The first of those scores was an Alajawon Whitfield kickoff return for a touchdown to give the Panthers an 8-6 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Neither team scored in a sleepy second half. 

“Lanett won 28-0 and coach Chip got beat 6-0,” Lanett Head Coach Chip Seagle joked after the game.

Seagle called for an opening onside kick, which took a weird hop and led to the early touchdown for Notasulga. But he was happy to see the ball in Whitfield’s hands on the ensuing kickoff.

“He’s magical with the ball in his hands,” Seagle said. 

From there, it was all Panthers, even though there were more than a few bumps along the way, including numerous holding and defensive encroachment penalties.  

KeJaun Greene scored the first offensive touchdown of the season for the Panthers on a 30-yard touchdown run with 10:43 left in the second quarter. That made it 14-6 Panthers after a failed two-point conversion.

The Panthers scored again seven minutes later after a wild bobbling catch on the sideline set them up deep in Notasulga territory. Keondae Hughley, who had a big night pressuring the quarterback and running the ball, broke through several tacklers for the touchdown to make it 20-6 Panthers. A two-point conversion run by Whitfield made it 22-6 Lanett.

It looked as if that’d be the score at halftime, but Lanett drove 70 yards in the final minute of the first half for a touchdown that felt like the dagger to the Blue Devils.

On the touchdown, Reiontae Zeigler ran out of the pocket, stepped up and threw a strike to Whitfield, who beat the Notasulga defense down the home sidelines for a 50-yard touchdown, making it 28-6 with 7 seconds to play in the second quarter. 

Lanett had two chances to score in the second half, but the Panthers fumbled deep in Notasulga territory on the first drive of the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, a fumble, a bad snap and a delay of game penalty backed Lanett up, leading to a turnover on downs.

Friday’s game was played at LaFayette after the heat caused a planned doubleheader at Bulldog Stadium to turn into games on back-to-back nights. LaFayette will play Loachapoka Saturday night.

Lanett plays crosstown rival Valley next week.