Panthers pick up where they left off against Creekside

Tiftarea Academy’s Adam McKinney (3) follows a block from Will Ross (24) for a big gain as Logan Crosson (14) looks on.

This story has been updated to correct the names of Tiftarea players. We were working off the roster listed on MaxPreps, which did not have uniform numbers updated for 2019. 

MCDONOUGH – The Tiftarea Academy Panthers hit the road Friday Aug. 23, for Creekside Christian Academy (CCA) and came on to the field with the same level of success the team had last year when they went undefeated in the regular season. The final result of the opener was a Panthers’ rout, 43-7.

The Panthers received the ball at the start of the first half. Adam McKinney returned the ball with a powerful drive. The senior running back proved he is more than capable of filling the shoes of former Panthers’ running back Spence Massey, who graduated in May.

It didn’t take long for the Panthers to find the end zone in the first series. Logan Crosson came out of the huddle ready to play and fired off a pass to John Adam Copeland inside the 10 yard line for a first down.

For the next play Crosson put the ball in the hands of McKinney who took it to the house for a huge touchdown. The Panthers hesitated to go kick on the point-after following the first touchdown. A two-point conversion try missed.

Tiftarea kicked the ball off to the Cougars and then the Panthers’ defense wreaked havoc on the offense. The defensive line dominated every rushing play the Cougars tried on them.

Creekside sent out their special teams’ punter, Parker Griffin, who punted for more than 40 yards and pinned the Panthers in the back field. Griffin was the most consistent player for the Cougars when he stepped on the field.

Crosson huddled up his offense and came back to the line of scrimmage gunning for another chance to put points on the board. Crosson found Dylan Harbort in the end zone for a big first down. After scoring a touchdown, Will Ross went on to catch the pass from Crosson to score a two-point conversion.

The Cougars failed to do anything with the next possession of the ball. The Cougars attempted to move the ball with their running back but they could not find the first down line under Panther supervision. Griffin again punted the ball 44 yards to McKinney who ran the ball back to the Panthers’ 40 yard line.

Crosson had an eight-yard gain after the Cougars defense broke through the Panthers offensive line. He re-set the ball and stayed in the pocket for a pass to Copeland who got tackled on the 21 yard line.

Crosson, thirsty for another touchdown, shot a pass to Harbort for the third touchdown of the night. The Panthers sent their kicker, Jayk Sailer, out for a successful extra point.

A pattern started to show on the field when again the Cougars received the ball from a kick off and failed driving the ball up the field for even a first down. Griffin was sent back to the field to punt the ball and pin the Panthers before Crosson had another chance to step on the field.

Kameron Brown became a star on special teams overnight with his success returning the punt. After catching the punt he ran for an extra 40 yards and shocked fans with his speed and agility getting around the Cougars special teams.

The first sign of life on Cougars Defense emerged early in the second quarter when Crosson threw an interception to Cougars’ cornerback, D’shawn Fletcher. Despite giving the Cougars an unexpected chance to score the ball, Creekside offense floundered with the ball for three downs and sent Griffin out for a punt.

Brown went back out to the field to return the punt and he again impressed the crowd with a 30-yard return after receiving the punt. Crosson went back out to the field confident and ready to continue the pursuit for a high-scoring night.

Crosson successfully moved the ball up the field and threw for another touchdown. The Panthers ended the first half with 43 points and the Cougars still had nothing to show on the scoreboard.

The second half proved to be uneventful and the Panthers did not score another touchdown. Creekside ended up pulling off one lonely touchdown after Tiftarea started experimenting with their depth chart. The final score was 43-7, Panthers victory.

Harbort scored two touchdowns, as did Mark Coley and McKinney.

Head coach Erik Soliday was pleased with his team for their performance in the first regular season game. This is Soliday’s second season as head coach and in his first season he lead his team to the final four in the state championship playoffs.

“It’s always good to get that first one [game] and get a win and get it behind us,” said Soliday. “We still made a lot of mistakes that we got to fix but we are a relatively young team and I think we are going to get better every week.”

Tiftarea plays Terrell Academy for their first home game on Aug. 30. The game will take place at Tiftarea Academy at 7:30 p.m.

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