As Lakeside's offense prepared to take the field for the final time Friday, coach Jody Grooms delivered instructions.
"We're going to go, 'V,' " he yelled. "Victory."
Never before did Lakeside have reason to use the formation in a state playoff game. Lakeside ran out the remaining seconds to beat Statesboro 16-0 at Panthers Stadium.
The victory was Lakeside's first in the state playoffs. Grooms's team will play host next week to Westside-Macon, 33-7 winners over Mount Zion-Jonesboro.
After the game, the Panthers met near a muddy midfield and huddled briefly before Grooms had them take a knee.
"I don't know who we got next week," he told them. "But we got somebody next week."
His players roared their approval.
The Panthers defense delivered another shutout, its fourth in a row and seventh of the season. Lakeside's running game was able to sustain enough momentum during the second half to keep its defense off the field for large chunks of time.
Lakeside (10-1) entered halftime leading by only a field goal. After receiving the opening kickoff of the second half, the Panthers ate four minutes off the clock during a 77-yard scoring drive capped by a Ben Wilson sneak.
The cushion proved plenty for the Panthers defense.
The Blue Devils botched their most promising drive, back- tracking after reaching the Lakeside 6 and losing a fumble at the Panthers 26.
The Panthers then punished the Blue Devils on a 12-play drive that spanned six minutes of the fourth quarter and ended with the final touchdown, a 2-yard Chris Hartfield run.
Lakeside running back Ricky McMurtrey said the offensive line played the second half with more enthusiasm and that they reminded each other of the magnitude of the game at the half.
"During our break, we kind of got it together as a team," McMurtrey said. "We knew that this is the biggest game in Lakeside history."
Lakeside locked down Statesboro's multifaceted rushing attack. The Panthers said they were motivated by the Blue Devils' 21-0 shutout in 2007.
"We were all jacked up, ready to play, baby," Hartfield said. "We didn't want to lose the first round. Like coach Grooms said, we are not done writing our story."
After the Panthers struggled with their kicking game during the regular-season finale against Josey, Grooms vowed to shore it up before the playoffs. Ben Hunt's 28-yard boot in the second quarter accounted for the first half's only points.
Statesboro's sideline erupted briefly after running back Lamar Stimage appeared to take a sweep 85 yards for a score before halftime, but a holding call negated the big play.
Reach Stephen Fastenau at (706) 863-6165, ext. 116 or email@example.com.
LAKESIDE 16, STATESBORO 0
PLAY OF THE GAME: Statesboro manufactured its best drive of the game during the fourth quarter, moving inside the Lakeside 10. But the Panthers defense blew up an option pitch, and linebacker David Reader recovered a fumble at the Lakeside 26.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Line-backer Kendal Parker spurred Lakeside's shutout with 16 tackles, four for a loss.
WHY LAKESIDE WON: Panthers coaches trusted their defense and called a smart game on offense. Lakeside did not turn the ball over after its first drive ended with a fourth-down stop.
WHY STATESBORO LOST: The Blue Devils were never able to kick start their running game, and inconsistency in the passing game allowed the Panthers to load the box.
NEXT: Lakeside plays host to Westside-Macon on Friday in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs.