Panthers keep playoff hopes alive with dominant second half

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 14, 2023

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The Lanett Panthers took home a dominant win on Friday night over rival LaFayette Bulldogs in the Battle for Highway 50. 

Lanett used a dominant second half to down LaFayette. The Panthers outscored the Bulldogs 21-6 and forced two turnovers in the last two quarters to take home the 41-12 win. 

“I thought we played with a lot of grit, a lot of desire,” Lanett coach Chip Seagle said. “We still didn’t necessarily carry out the play, but that’s part of being young. They’re ours so we’re going to take them, love on them, coach them up and try to win next week to see if we can get this team in the playoffs.” 

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The rivalry game had a lot riding on it. With the loss, LaFayette is eliminated from playoff contention with a 1-4 record in the region and a 1-6 overall record. Lanett lives to fight another week, and they are set up for a crucial matchup with Goshen next week. 

The Panthers set the tone early in the third quarter. Keondae Huguley rushed for 49 yards on the first play from scrimmage. A few plays later, Huguley scored on a nine-yard rushing touchdown. After the successful 2-point conversion Lanett led 20-6 with 11:02 left in the third quarter. 

LaFayette was plagued by penalties in the game. In total, the Bulldogs gave up 45 yards on just offside penalties. 

“It hurt us a lot, but fatigue hurt us,” LaFayette coach Juan Williams said. 

Williams felt like Lanett just wore his team down on offense, and the Bulldogs just could not keep up for four quarters. 

Huguley found the end zone one more time on a 17-yard rushing touchdown. The successful 2-point conversion gave the Panthers a 28-6 lead with 3:13 left in the third quarter. 

LaFayette answered back on the ensuing drive as a 56-yard screen pass from Tae Towles to Ty Brewer set the Bulldogs up with a first and goal. A few plays later, Towles found Jordan Johnson for a two-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 16. 

On the ensuing drive, Riontae Zeigler connected with Shamar Patterson for a 35-yard touchdown pass. The missed extra point made the score 34-13 with 10:43 left in the game. 

Lanett’s defense shut LaFayette down for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs found themselves near the endzone, but Towles pass was intercepted by Christian Brock and returned for a 96-yard house call. The extra point made the score 41-12 with 8:50 left to go. 

Towles was intercepted one more time by RJ Tucker to end the game. 

“Defense played lights out,” Seagle said. 

The first half was as back and forth as it gets in a local rivalry game. LaFayette had multiple opportunities to take the momentum in the first two quarters. 

On Lanett’s first drive, Riontae Zeigler and Alajawon Whitfield mishandled an exchange that led to a fumble. Corvantez Swint came away with the recovery, but the offense could not move the ball. The Bulldogs punted four plays later. 

On the ensuing drive, Zeigler and Whitfield connected to pick up a first down on fourth and 15. A few plays later, Zeigler connected with Christian Brock for a 13-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was missed, but the Panthers led 6-0 with 2:04 left in the first quarter. 

On the ensuing drive, LaFayette opted for a fake punt on fourth and long. The attempt was stuffed, and Lanett took over on the Bulldogs’ 33-yard line. 

LaFayette’s defense stood tall as Zeigler’s pass intended for Brock was intercepted by Cameron Thomas. The offense could not capitalize again, and the ensuing drive resulted in a net loss of five yards. 

The Bulldogs finally got on the scoreboard late in the second quarter. Tae Towles connected with Ty Brewer for a 17-yard touchdown pass to cap off the 76-yard drive. After the failed 2-point conversion, the game was all tied up at six with 2:46 left in the second quarter. 

The Panthers refused to let that lead stand. Lanett went 61 yards in less than a minute as Zeigler connected with Whitfield for the 8-yard touchdown pass. Keonda Huguley converted the 2-point conversion, and the Panthers took a 14-6 lead into halftime. 

With a record of 3-5, Lanett has to win its last two games to make the playoffs, but Seagle hopes the momentum from this week will carry over to next week. LaFayette does not plan to lay down for the rest of the season, and they will fight for pride in the next two games. 

“They needed this,” Seagle said. “We’re just going to build on it.” 

“I got their back and they’ve got mine,” Williams said.