- Newberry, FL. Written By: Wes Trotta On Friday night, the Newberry Panthers dismantled the Williston Red Devils 55-8. Even with the week leading up to this game being hectic, the Panthers put together a complete game.
With Friday night being their homecoming game, Panthers head coach Eduard Johnson knew it was going to be a struggle to keep his team focused.
“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know how we overcame it.” Johnson added, “I was stressed all week about it because it just seemed like we were overly distracted all week."
However, Johnson’s team did not seem distracted.
“Getting that early big play through Cam [Camron Cohens] helped a lot with that,” He said about Cohens returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
Johnson’s defense also stepped up, early.
“And then the big pick-6 from Lee [Zilcosky] early on, yeah know we kind off just steam rolled from there.” Johnson said in regards to Zilcosky stepping into the quarterback’s lane and reeling in the ball with one hand on his way to the end zone.
Dominating on special teams, defense, and offense allowed the Panthers to get rolling early and never look back. Surprisingly their offense was the last unit to score.
However, quarterback Makai Johnson quickly reminded the home crowd how potent this offense can be.
“We focus in and out of every practice.” Makai said. “Come in, put points on the board.” They did just that.
Whether he was handing it off to one his running backs or throwing to his receivers, Makai found success all game long.
The first bit of offensive success came through the air, when Makai found J.J. Harper over the middle. Harper, at 6-5, was a mismatch all night. But, if you ask Makai, all his teammates are mismatches.
“It makes it way easier, I trust all my receivers.”
After the Panthers’ offense made a statement in the passing game, they got the ground game rolling. Enter Kobe Dilema, who made huge plays all night and constantly got to the secondary. Dilema found the end zone in the second quarter on a rush to right sideline.
Following that drive, the Red Devils were able to get on the board. The one area of their game that showed promise was their run game. Lamonte Terrell had explosive runs all night and was the lone Red Devil to find the end zone.
Their attempt at a comeback was short lived as the Panthers scored immediately thanks to perfect pass from Makai to Amonte’ Young. Young, another big target at 6'3", went over the defender to pull it in.
This score put the Panthers up 35-8 with two minutes left in the half, but they still were not done scoring.
After a turnover on downs, the Panthers got the ball back and immediately put it in the hands of their playmakers, this time it was Cohens, who sprinted down the left sideline for a score right before half.
Going into halftime with a 42-8 lead meant that everything was going right on offense and defense, and one player that deserves some credit is Leontre’ Robinson.
Robinson was a force at fullback and as an outside linebacker, and at 6'0", 238 LBS, it wasn’t a surprise.
“I play both ways. I’m very agile," Robinson said. “I still can hit, I can lay that boom.”
He did just that, racking up a couple sacks and bringing down players in the backfield all game.
“Like coach said, we had a bad week. Wasn’t really focused in practice but we already knew we had to come out and show out for this homecoming.” Robinson added, “We had to execute every play, every down.”
Everything seemed to settle down in the second half, but the Panthers’ offense still kept their foot on the gas.
Young caught his second TD of the game in third quarter. The last score of the game came on a run from Laverne Woods III. Woods' touchdown brought the final score to 55-8.
While the Panthers dominated in all areas of the game, coach Johnson knows they have to build on this success for the future.
“You gotta be able to be sound in all three aspects of the game," Johnson said. "As long as we keep doing that, I’m excited to see where we’ll be.”
Player of the Game:
Makai Johnson: Quarterback, 3 passing touchdowns, 0 turnovers. Put the ball in the right place consistently, even under pressure.