September 19, 2009 11:29:00 PM
It is a football game that no West Lowndes player will soon forget.
The Panthers won''t forget their 20-0 victory against Wheeler on Friday night not because there were so many storylines.
Rain forced the school''s homecoming festivities to be moved into the gym. Then, a two-hour rain delay forced West Lowndes and Wheeler to wait it out and to wonder if they would play.
When the decision finally was made to play, a flooded field greeted the teams.
But the Panthers didn''t let it stop them.
Senior quarterback Courtney Lucious threw two touchdown passes and junior free safety Brandon Clark had two interceptions to highlight the victory.
"There were a lot of distractions already this week," said West Lowndes coach Bobby Berry, whose team improved to 3-1. "We had homecoming to deal with and then the rains came. We had to sit for about two hours wondering if we were going to play or not."
With more than 25 games canceled statewide, the thinking was to postpone the non-divisional matchup. However, with both teams facing a bye week this week and their divisional openers the following week, the coaches agreed to play with a running clock the whole game.
"We were both trying to avoid having two weeks off between games," Berry said. "We have our district opener against Hamilton and they also go on the road. We thought a shortened game would benefit us."
Due to the running clock, neither team had many opportunities to find its rhythm on the offense. Neither offense netted more than 150 yards in the monsoon-like conditions, but Lucious was spot on, going 6-for-10 for 98 yards.
"He had a good game," Berry said. "The pass protection was very good. He had to fight through adversity with the rain and field conditions."
West Lowndes also forced three turnovers, giving it the edge in field position all game.
"It''s tough," Wheeler coach Todd Swinney said. "We just didn''t have enough plays tonight to really find anything successful. I thought the running game was good at times, but the setup didn''t help us on that."
Wheeler (2-2) found its best success running on the edges, but the
sloppy field conditions prevented either team from establishing the ground attack.
The Eagles had a majority of their rushes go for negative or no yardage, which prevented them from controlling the ball. Only 12 of Wheeler''s offensive snaps netted positive yards.
The Panthers scored on their opening drive, going 62 yards on seven plays. Lucious capped the drive with a 4-yard run.
It remained 8-0 until the final play of the third quarter, when Lucious connected with Andra Farmer for 19-yard completion to put the game away.
"I thought our team fought against a deep team tonight," Swinney said. "We just did not execute enough on offense to make a threat."
Wheeler had its best scoring threat in the opening quarter, when Odarus Shaw had a 44-yard run up the left side to the West Lowndes 35. The drive stalled, however, on downs at the Panthers'' 20.
West Lowndes will travel to Hamilton on Oct. 3 for the district opener for both teams.