The Lakeside High School Panthers advanced to the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state playoffs following Friday night's regular season finale, just not in the fashion they would have liked.
Facing the Demons of Warner Robins, the Panthers jumped out to a 7-0 halftime lead, but the Demons controlled the second half, winning 35-7 and taking home the Region 2-AAAAA championship in the process.
The Panthers (6-4, 4-3) entered the night a game behind the Demons (9-1, 6-1) in third place, but could have jumped to second with a win. With the loss, they needed an Evans loss against Northside, Warner Robins to secure a berth in the postseason. When Evans lost 35-13, the Panthers were in.
While excited about the upcoming playoffs, that didn't take away the sting of the loss from Panthers head coch Jarrett Troxler.
"We want to win, but we went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the state of Georgia," said Troxler. "We ran out of people up front and we were manhandled up front."
The Demons took to the ground in the second half, rushing for 180 of their 293 yards and five touchdowns. Danny Hite, Jr. led the charge with 147 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns.
"We played really good on offense in the second half," said Demons head coach Bryan Way.
The Panthers held the Demons scoreless in the first half, forcing two turnovers in the process. Rashad Roundtree picked off a pass on the Demons first possession, but the Panthers were unable to convert it into points.
After Roundtree recovered a fumbled punt at the Demons' 47 with 1:06 left in the half, it took the Panthers just three plays for Hunter Banks to find
BJ Raymond in the right corner of the end zone for a 28-yard score and a 7-0 lead with 44 seconds left in the half.
The Demons came out with the first possession of the third quarter and went 76 yards in 15 plays with Hite, Jr. going in from a yard out to tie the score at 7 with 6:23 left in the quarter.
After playing mistake-free football in the first half, the Panthers turned the ball over three times on two interceptions and a fumble, all of which the the Demons were able to convert into touchdowns, breaking the game open.
Offensively the Panthers finished the game rushing for eight yards on 15 carries while Banks was 13-30 for 135 yards a touchdown and two interceptions.