HOMERVILLE -- Clinch County knows where it wants to be next Saturday: the carpeted turf of the Georgia Dome.
In order to be in the Dome in downtown Atlanta next Saturday, the Panthers must take care of business this Saturday 20 miles southwest of the Dome in Fairburn.
Clinch travels to Landmark Christian Saturday night for a Class A quarterfinal battle. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. The winner of the game will face the Hawkinsville-Commerce winner next Saturday at the Dome.
"This is to go to the Dome," wide receiver/safety Lamar McKnight said. "It means everything for us. I want to go back there. We've been there the last two years. Each time we've wanted to go back."
Like last season, when the Panthers met Lincoln County (a 28-14 Panther win), Clinch must get by a dangerous quarterfinal opponent. Landmark has scored 427 points this season, an average of 35.6 points a game.
Most of Landmark's points have come from a passing attack as good as any in Class A.
"They get most of their yards through the air," Barber said. "They throw some short passes, but most of the time, they like to go for it, throw it long."
Quarterback Alex Mortenson, who has committed to Arkansas, has thrown for 2,473 yards and 29 touchdowns, with only four interceptions. His favorite target is receiver Eric Worrell, who has 63 catches for 1,155 yards, an 18.3 yards-per-catch average, and 17 touchdowns. Landmark also has two other reliable receivers, and its tailback, Dylan Hanes, has rushed for 844 yards this season.
"We've got to stop No. 7 (Mortenson), their quarterback, and No. 20 (Worrell), the receiver," Barber said. "That's our first objective. If we can disrupt one of those two guys, we've got a chance. But if Mortenson and Worrell have their way, we'll be going home Saturday."
To combat Landmark's high-scoring offense, Clinch will send out a defense allowing just 4.3 points a game, one that has not allowed an opponent more than nine points in a game this season (Charlton County had 16 point against Clinch, but one of their touchdowns came on special teams). The Panthers had a streak of 22 quarters without allowing a point, and a five-game shutout streak, snapped last week by Calvary.
"It's going to be a pretty good challenge," cornerback B.J. Richardson said. "We've got to go out and keep pressure on the quarterback. Everybody in the secondary is going to have to do their jobs."
Landmark will also have to stop Clinch's offense, something few teams have done this season. The Panthers average 32.6 points a game, and can get their yards in the air or on the ground. All-State quarterback Joe Louis Mingo (1,045 yards, 9 TD passing; 534 yards, 7 TD rushing) went over the 1,000-yard passing mark last week, while Lorenzo Kelsaw's 150 rushing yards against Calvary gave him 1,352 yards for the season, along with 26 touchdowns.
The Panthers know they will be challenged. But they also know what lies ahead the next two weeks, should they win.
"I'm sure they're real hungry, because they've never been to the Dome before. But we're hungry too," Richardson said. "We've experienced it, we know what it's like to win (in the quartefinals), we've been to the Dome. We want to go back. We're selfish."
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