HOMERVILLE — The Clinch County Panthers redeemed their semifinal loss from last season as they took down the defending Class A champion Wilcox County Patriots 33-14 on Friday night at Donald Tison Field.
“We believed we could win,” Clinch County head coach Jim Dickerson said. “They came in here last year and beat us in the semifinals and they beat us on our field. That was something we challenged our kids to. We can’t stand to lose on our home field. We just felt like we weren’t going to let someone come in here and beat us back-to-back years.”
The Panthers held the high-powered Patriots offense to just 143 yards, mainly due to chunks of negative plays and penalties committed by the Patriots.
The Panthers defensive attack held the 2009 Offensive Player of the Year in Nick Marshall to just 12-of-30 passing while forcing the senior into two interceptions.
Offensively, the Panthers were led by quarterback Trey Dorsey, who rushed for a team-best 218 yards on 24 carries. Dorsey was able to punch the ball into the end zone for three rushing touchdowns, which included a game-clinching 72-yard scamper with just minutes to play.
“If I was in my back yard and I was picking teams I’d pick Trey Dorsey over anyone in the state of Georgia,” Dickerson said.
Panthers running back Anthony McNeil added 91 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Dorsey’s 13-yard touchdown run capped off a 26-yard opening drive for the Panthers that began the scoring.
The Patriots wasted little time responding as Marshall led a quick three-play, 73-yard drive to tie the game.
Wilcox eventually took the lead a few drives later when Marshall connected with Jonathan Howard for an 11-yard touchdown strike, which made it 14-7.
Clinch County answered just minutes later as McNeil scored from nine yards out with less than a minute to play in the opening half.
The Panthers jumped out to an early advantage in the second half as they found the end zone on two of their first three second half possessions.
With a late lead and time running out, the Panthers defense put together several late stops, including an interception and fumble recovery.
After the game, Dickerson told his team that they had shocked the state and he rewarded his fourth-ranked team with Monday off from practice.
“When this gets out to the state, people are going to be shocked,” Dickerson said. “High school rankings mean nothing, and yeah (this win) puts a huge target on our back.”
The Panthers will face Bacon County next Friday night as they look to take early command of Region 2-A.