CHULA -- At a glance it would appear that the Tiftarea Academy Panthers football team has fallen on hard times. Indeed, after opening the season with three straight wins, the Class AA Panthers have run into a AAA buzzsaw, dropping three straight games to even their record at 3-3.

Waiting in the wings is yet another AAA team, First Presbyterian Day Academy. Friday the Panthers take to the road again as they face FPD in Macon.

First Presbyterian has established itself as a team that likes to throw and Tiftarea head football coach Mayo Tucker and the rest of the Panthers can expect that trend to continue Friday. But that won't be all.

"We heard that they threw it a lot, but when they played Walton, they ran it a bunch," said Tucker.

"We're looking for them to do a lot of both."

First Presbyterian is led by quarterback Colby Maddox who is the state's AAA passing leader. He has completed 43 passes on 82 attempts for 712 yards. Maddox has thrown seven touchdown passes.

Hauling in 18 of Maddox's passes has been Alex Gainey for a total of 375 yards and four touchdowns. Brian McCommon has caught nine passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns.

While Tucker will likely be concerned with First Presbyterian's air attack, he is more concerned with seeing his Panthers play an entire game. During the last three contests, Tiftarea has waited until the second half to show up.

"We need to get this team to play the whole game," said Tucker of his squad following Tiftarea's 14-13 loss to the Central-Fellowship Academy Chargers this past Saturday. The Panthers trailed 14-7 when Jonathan House scored a touchdown with just under ninety seconds to play in the game. Unfortunately, the two-point conversion try failed leaving the Panthers short for the third straight week.

"We think we're ready to play from the start," said Tucker citing a week's worth of spirited practices.

"When you think about what we've done (against AAA teams), we got worn out by Stratford, should have only been down by 14 at the half against Deerfield and we should have won at Central."

However, in the past two losses, the Panthers have discovered another weapon in the backfield. Two weeks ago, trailing Deerfield-Windsor, Tucker replaced quarterback Tanner Ivie with first senior Drew Hobby and then, freshman Bryan Ellis. Both passed for nearly 150 yards. Against Central-Fellowship, Hobby had another strong night completing several passes including a 65-yard touchdown strike to sophomore receiver Garrett Bowen.

Tiftarea senior Clint Karsten is still the Panthers' receiving leader with 266 yards. House broke the 200-yard mark Saturday and now has 235 yards on the year. Whit Coarsey still leads the Panthers on the ground with 229 yards on 62 carries.







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