Tiftarea battles through season and playoffs


   The Southland Academy Raiders challenged the Tiftarea Panthers for the Regional Championship title on Friday, Oct. 2. Both teams were determined to go home with the trophy at the end of the night.

   Panthers received the kick and Adam McKinney ran the ball to the 29-yard line. Logan Crossan completed a pass to Colby Grant for a first down. The Panthers failed to move the ball for another first down and were forced to punt the ball on fourth down.

   The first play from the Raiders’ offense ended with a crushing sack from Panthers Linebacker, Casen Royal. The Panthers’ defense successfully shut down the Raiders’ offense and the ball was punted on fourth down.

   The Panthers struggled to move the ball up the field after receiving the punt. Crossan was able to run the ball for several yards, however, the team failed to receive a first down. The Raiders took the ball back and ran to the 12-yard line. The Panthers nearly recovered a fumble, but the referees declared the ball was down.

   Though the Panthers’ defense fought hard to stop the Raiders’ offense, the team successfully scored a touchdown along with an extra point. Head Coach Erik Soliday didn’t give the Raiders fans much time for celebration. Crossan completed a first down pass to Grant, then Crossan completed another first down pass to Dalton Jones.

   The first quarter ended before Crossan could finish the touchdown drive. When the ball reset, Crossan scanned the field for open receivers and locked on with Royal. Royal caught the pass in the end zone and scored a touchdown. Again, Crossan threw the ball to Royal for a two-point conversion. The Panthers took the lead from the Raiders at 8-7.

   Tiftarea kicked the ball off to the Raiders and Jones stopped the receiver. Brandon Mullis sacked the Raiders’ quarterback for a huge loss of yards. The Panthers’ defense forced the Raiders to punt on fourth down.

   When the Panthers’ offense took the field again, Spence Massey completed a huge first down run. Crossan, again, handed the ball to Massey for another first down drive. Next, Crossan threw a touchdown pass to Jones and completed a two-point conversion. The score moved to 16-7 Panthers’ leading.

   The Raiders failed to put any more points on the board before the second half ended. Defensive back Grant caught an interception from the Raiders’ quarterback. Grant has averaged one interception per game in the 2018 season. The first half ended with the Panthers beating the Raiders 16-7.

   When the game started back, Tiftarea kicked the ball to Southland Academy. Hunter Hartsfield sacked the Raiders’ quarterback for a loss of yards. Next, the Raiders’ quarterback threw an interception to McKinney and he ran the ball to the 25-yard line. Before the first quarter ended, Crossan handed the ball off to Massey who completed a first down run.

   The fourth quarter started with a touchdown drive from Massey. The Panthers failed to get any extra points after the touchdown, and the ball went back to the Raiders. The Raiders were able to score another touchdown, but they failed the two-point conversion. The score went to 22-13 with the Panthers still winning.

   The Panthers got the ball back, and Massey completed a first down for the offense. Crossan, unfortunately, threw an interception and the Raiders got the ball back. Determined for victory, Defensive lineman Mullis charged at the quarterback and sacked him for loss of yards. The Panthers’ defense stopped any advances from the Raiders’ offense until the ball was turned over.

   Crossan completed another touchdown pass to McKinney and failed the field goal attempt. The Raiders attempted to score one more touchdown before the game ended. Jackson Hoover sacked the quarterback who was attempting to find an open receiver. The game ended with the scoreboard reading 28-13.

   The game settled who the 2018 Regional Champions were. Rightfully so, the perfect season the Panthers worked towards earned the team the trophy. “I was really pleased with our defense to step up and challenge those guys like that. I thought our defense played really hard,” said Head Coach Erik Soliday.

   “We’ve had a really good season so far, but we really are just getting to where we want to be, now it’s time to really step it up,” said Soliday. The team ended the 10-game season with ten victories and the region trophy. The Southland Academy Raiders went home with the runner-up trophy.

   Now that the Panthers have moved forward in the playoffs, they have received a bye week for the first round. The team playing against the Panthers in the second round of the playoffs will be determined. The game will be held at a neutral stadium.

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