CHULA -- What started out on a positive note had a quick, disappointing end Friday night when lightning and heavy rain put an end to the GISA affair between the Tiftarea Academy Panthers and the Crisp Academy Wildcats midway through the opening quarter of the game.
The Panther coaching staff had hoped to make the game up Saturday evening, but the Crisp Academy coaching staff declined. So the Panthers will open their high school football season Friday at home as they host the Lancers of Central Fellowship, a GISA Class AAA team from Macon.
Last year the Panthers played the Lancers early in the season and very nearly defeated them.
"We scored late and tried to go for two for the win and didn't make it," recalled Tiftarea head coach Mayo Tucker.
Naturally, the Panthers are hoping for better results this week And it is equally true that they would have liked to have a game under their belts already. But the squad has been working hard throughout the preseason and the feeling is that the Panthers are ready.
In the short time spent on the field this past Friday, there were some good things seen.
"We moved the ball well," said Tucker of the 12-play drive. "We blocked pretty good."
Against Crisp Academy the Panthers took the opening kickoff and under the leadership of sophomore quarterback Bryan Ellis, quickly moved the ball downfield. Ellis completed four passes for positive yardage along with one long pass that was called back on a penalty.
The penalty on that long completion brought the ball back to the Wildcat 34 and the Panthers were forced to punt.
The Lancers come to Chula tomorrow night with an 0-1 record after falling to Tattnall in a Thursday night season-opener a week ago. Last season Central Fellowship finished the year with a 5-6 record bowing out of the GISA AAA state playoffs in the first round. Stratford beat the Lancers 44-7.
Five starters return from last year's squad but only one of the five is a senior. Darrell Singleton will line up at defensive back and wide receiver.
"We really don't know what they've got," said Tucker. "They could have added another player or two since the season started."
Which is what the Panthers have done. For when the Panthers take the field Friday night against Central Fellowship they will be with the services of junior Garrett Bowen.
During this past basketball season Bowen injured an arm and while he returned to athletic competition at the end of the Panthers' baseball season, he has only recently been released to play football. Bowen will see time at tight end and slotback on offense and he will line up at free safety on defense.
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