Panthers are in the playoffs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Georgiana Panthers earned a spot in the 2006 state playoffs with an impressive 38-12 victory over the Excel Panthers Friday night.

The Panthers overcame a 12-0 deficit and reeled off six consecutive and unanswered touchdowns in which half of the scores were a result of turnovers.

First-year Georgiana head coach Donald Ray Mixon, Jr., was proud of the team's achievement.

&#8220For the most part, I thought we played extremely well tonight,” Mixon said. &#8220We struggled in the first quarter but we turned it around in the second quarter and didn't look back. If we can play four quarters of football, we are going to scare some teams in the playoffs.”

With less than two minutes remaining in the opening quarter, Excel jumped on Georgiana by scoring two quick touchdowns before the end of this period. The first score came with 1:46 left as Steven Brown ran 10 yards to the end zone. The second came on a 31 yard catch by Shelby Jordan from quarterback Marcus Anderson with :05 remaining in the quarter.

&#8220I had to give our guys a pep talk at the end of the first quarter,” Mixon said.

Whatever was said, it worked because the Panthers eventually took a 13-12 lead with :41 remaining in the half.

Quarterback Andre Paige hit Damien McIntosh on a 51-yard touchdown strike on their first possession in the quarter. The 3 play drive only took 1:09 to take place.

&#8220Andre is a big play maker and he's a valuable asset to this team,” Mixon said.

Paige threw for 135 yards including three touchdown passes.

&#8220The offensive line did a good job of blocking for Andre. That allowed Andre to do what he needed to do,” he said.

In the waning moments of the second quarter, McIntosh came up big again as he recovered a fumble at the Excel 48-yard line. The Panthers needed just four plays to find the end zone as Paige connected with Terrance Matthews on a 36 yard touchdown pass before half. Kyle Nelson gave the Panthers the lead with his extra point kick.

&#8220Our defense shut them down after the first quarter,” Mixon said. &#8220I'm just so proud of everyone's effort here tonight.”

Dedric Rich led all tacklers with 13 solo tackles.

Georgiana cruised in the second half as the Panthers scored 25 points off four touchdowns including three in the fourth quarter.

Zebbie Mitchell set up the first score with a 67 yard kick off return to the Excel 10-yard line. Paige polished off the drive with a 2 yard QB sneak for the 19-12 lead. The Panthers finished with 264 total yards on offense including 129 yards rushing.

In the fourth quarter, Mitchell intercepted two passes and advanced the ball deep into Excel territory.

&#8220Zebbie was down on himself earlier in the game but he got back up and made some huge plays for us down the stretch,” Mixon said.

Cornelius McMeans finished both drives with a pair of five yard TD runs. McMeans led the team with 84 yards.

&#8220He (McMeans) ran the ball well tonight. Those guys up front (offensive line) created some holes for him,” Mixon said.

Matthews also scored in the fourth quarter on an impressive 49-yard TD catch and run. Matthews eluded several tacklers, found some daylight and bolted into the end zone.

&#8220That was a great play by Terrance (Matthews). I knew he had it in him. It took nine games, but nonetheless, we knew he was capable of being a big play maker for us.”

It also took nine games for the Panthers to punch themselves a ticket into the playoffs but the coaches knew the team had the fight in them to do it.

&#8220We achieved one of our goals tonight,” Mixon said. &#8220It feels great because I knew they were capable of reaching that goal.”

The Panthers will play Hillcrest-Evergreen next Friday night.