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Georgiana prepping for tougher round 2 against Isabella

Georgiana’s round-two opponent, the Isabella Mustangs, represent a sizeable difficulty spike from last week’s Millry Wildcats.

For starters, the Mustangs are a rare Georgiana opponent whose season stats rival the Panthers.  The Mustangs have held opponents to six points or less this season, all while scoring 47 points per game on average.

Isabella’s sole loss this season is to the Maplesville Red Devils—the same Red Devils who defeated Georgiana last season in round three of the playoffs and went on to win the Class 1A state championship. Isabella fell short in toppling the Red Devils but, then again, so has every team since September 25, 2015 (the last recorded Maplesville loss).

Georgiana head football coach Ezell Powell acknowledged the challenges facing him and the Panthers this week.

“I’m not going to say it’s a tremendous jump, but it is a jump, because this is a group that’s been running the same system the whole year,” Powell said. “What made Millry’s game plan a little different was that they switched to a different system three weeks into the season, so they weren’t quite as crisp as what we’ll see Friday night. 

“Isabella and Millry are about the same, talent-wise.  They have some athletic kids in the skill positions, and they get after it really well on defense.  They’re well coached, and it’s going to make for a difficult challenge, but an exciting ballgame.”

Regardless, Powell said that the game plan doesn’t change much from week to week.

“It’s the same thing that’s gotten us to this point—we have to do a great job of blocking, tackling and executing the game plan on both sides of the football,” Powell said.

“We have to minimize our mistakes, and make sure we’re in the ballgame in the fourth quarter.  If we can get it to the fourth quarter and we’re in the ballgame, I think we have just as good of a chance at winning it as they do.”

And fourth quarters have been big for Georgiana this season.  In Friday night’s faceoff with Millry, the Panthers scored 21 of their 28 points in the final quarter of play.

“We stress a lot about finishing ballgames strong,” Powell said.

“That was an example of us finishing the game strong, even though we sputtered for a while Friday night and didn’t have things going offensively like we wanted to.  But when we hit that fourth quarter, I like our chances against anybody.”

Another advantage the Panthers enjoyed last week—and one that they’ll enjoy again this week—is playing on their home turf.

“It’s huge all season, but especially in the playoffs,” Powell said. “Being able to stay at home and stick to your regular Friday night home game routine, and the atmosphere and fan support… everything about just being at home gives you an added motivation when you play on Friday nights. 

“We’re just trying to continue that trend, so we’re excited about having another game here at home and we’re going to go out Friday night and try not to let the home fans down.”

While the Panthers’ ultimate goal is a state championship, Powell also hopes to keep his players as healthy as possible as they do so. 

With many of his players shifting gears for basketball season immediately after football season concludes, the repercussions of injury grow even greater. 

Powell said that he was thankful for his players’ commitments week-in and week-out.

“At this point in the season, everyone has bumps, bruises, sprains, strains and aches that they’re playing through,” Powell said. “But in order to win the ultimate prize, that’s what you have to go through to get there.  These kids show a tremendous amount of courage getting out there and playing with injuries a lot of times, and we don’t always see it, but they go through a lot just to get out there and play their tails off on Friday night. 

“I always try to let mine know how much I appreciate the effort they put in out there on that field, because I know the ones that are hurt and injured that still go out there and give it everything they’ve got.”

The Panthers host the Mustangs Friday night.  Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.