COVINGTON, Ga. — On Friday night, the Peachtree Academy Panthers took the next step to a state championship, winning their semifinal game against Rock Springs Christian, 26-14 Friday night in Covington.
The win continued Peachtree’s perfect season and its quest for a state title. The state championship game will be played next week at Peachtree Academy with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Moving to 11-0 overall and 2-0 in state playoff play, the Panthers showed trademark tenacity and desire, although the beginning of the game looked like the beginning of a rout by the visiting Eagles.
Falling behind 14 – 0 to the Eagles with time still remaining in the first quarter, the Panthers looked like they didn’t have an answer for the Eagles’ efficient offense and well-coached defense.
Led by Malik Holder and Jordan Stroud, the Eagles stuffed the Panthers on a three-and-out after the opening kickoff, then moved methodically down the field to take an early 7-0 lead, thanks to a 55-yard TD run by the Eagles’ quarterback who took off on a busted play.
The Panthers once again went 3-and-out, and the Eagles again cashed in on a long run by Stroud.
Down 14-0, it was Panthers fullback Kaleb Brisbane who gave the team the spark they needed, as he took a handoff up the middle, breaking tackles and breaking free for a 65-yard score that brought the crowd to its feet and gave the Panther faithful a reason to believe they could come back. The PAT was blocked, so the game sat at 14-6 Eagles.
Then with about two minutes left in the half, after the Panthers showed a strong defensive effort, they took the ball and marched right down the field, scoring on a bomb from Dakota Boeckman to Daniel Cassamajor from 45 yards out. The two point conversion was stopped, but the game was on, as the Panthers fought back and entered the half down just 14-12.
Stopping the Eagles after the second half kickoff, the Panthers then marched down the field, highlighted by a 13-yard run by Grayson Hopkins on a fake punt on 4th and 12, then scoring a rushing TD by quarterback Marvin Peoples from 17 yards out. The two-point conversion made it 20-14 and Peachtree fans sensed what was unfolding.
The defenses for both teams held serve, then, later in the fourth quarter, after a fumble recovery by the Panthers, they cashed in on another scoring strike from Boeckman, this time to senior running back, Hunter Payne which provided the game’s final margin.
The Panthers were led by Brisbane with 98 yards on 12 carries and a score, Cassamajor with 56 yards rushing and a receiving TD and Boeckman who went 4 for 6 passing for 67 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Hunter Payne also contributed 35 yards on the ground and 21 receiving, including the late, game-clinching TD.
After the game, Peachtree Academy coach, Clint Miller said that he wasn’t pleased with the team’s execution, and said his bunch would have to focus better if they plan on taking the state crown.
“We made too many mistakes tonight. We have to tighten it up,” Miller said. “But I am extremely proud of these guys, the team. They are winners. They never quit. We beat a very good Rock Springs team tonight, they earned it. Now it’s time to prepare for the state championship. One more game”