The Panthers of Carver-Atlanta are the first school among the four APS teams to advance to the second round after winning 32-21 against Hart County.

Friday evening at Lakewood Stadium or what most people call “The Wood” featured two 3-A opponents playing for the right to face the winner of Cherokee-Bluff-Lafayette.

Both teams were pumped up, anxious but no doubt ready for this game.

As the game started, it was the Bulldogs of Hart County that struck first. Runningback JI Lackey rushed in from 30 yards on the third play of the game to give the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead.

Both teams settled in but the Panthers answered on their second drive. This time, runningback Jarveous Brown ran it in from 3 yards for a touchdown. The Panthers went for two and converted, making the score 8-7 with 4:17 to go in the first quarter.

Late in the first quarter, the Panthers found the endzone once again. This time quarterback Kiontae Strozier connected with receiver Tobias Robinson and Robinson dodged defenders to score on a 17 yard touchdown reception. The two point attempt was no good but the Panthers lead 14-7 with 21 seconds to go in the first quarter.

While it looked like the Bulldogs were in trouble, their ensuing drive proved otherwise. Quarterback Austen Whitworth completed his pass to receiver Paul Davis who juked a Panther defensive back to cruise into the endzone for a 34 yard touchdown reception.

The game was tied at 14 with 9:22 to go in the 2nd quarter.

The Panthers were driving downfield on their ensuing offensive possession when Brown went down after suffering an ankle injury on a run inside the redzone. The Panthers finished the drive though as Strozier dove in for the goal line touchdown on a quarterback sneak. The Panthers lead 20-14 late in the second and kept that lead going into halftime.

Being down four runningbacks including their star runningback forced linebacker Devonte Amasiani and Terrico Faulks to step up for the Panthers in the second half.

They along with the offensive line made a huge impact in the second half for the Panthers offensively. It set up the passing game for Dozier who ended up finding receiver Quintavious Davis for a 34 yard touchdown reception to go up 26-14 with 7:53 to go in the third quarter.

Just when you thought the Panthers had the Bulldogs on the ropes, they responded. This time Bulldogs receiver Malachi Kelley caught a 16 yard pass on a long four down conversion to get into the endzone from 16 yards.

The score was 26-21 with 1:39 to go in the third.

Just when the Panthers needed it, Davis answered once again. This time catching a 43 yard pass while dragging a defender with him into the endzone to put the Panthers on top 32-21. The defense intercepted Whitworth on the Bulldogs last offensive drive of the game to seal the deal.

“It felt great to win, after we had the adversity we had to deal with,” said Panthers head coach Darren Myles. “Everybody stepped up and did their job.”

The Panthers will be on the road next week to battle Cherokee-Bluff.

Photo: Anfernee Patterson/The Atlanta Voice

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