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Panthers shut out Central
Forsyth Central's Sean Mateer (42) reaches for Southwest DeKalb running back Jeremy Barnett during the Bulldogs 42-0 loss to the Panthers on Saturday. - photo by Emily Saunders

CLARKSTON — It turns out more than one set of Bulldogs from Georgia had trouble moving the ball Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately for Forsyth Central, its defense didn’t fare much better, as Southwest DeKalb rolled to a 42-0 win in a daytime matchup at James R. Hallford Stadium just outside Atlanta.

Central’s Bulldogs (1-2 overall, 1-1 Region 6-AAAA) punted four times and turned it over on three more possessions during a frustrating afternoon for the offense. The Dawgs managed only 129 yards on the day.

“We’ve got to get better,” Central coach Chris Bennett said.

“This is a great football team, and if we want to be able to compete with the great people in this region, then we’ve got to be able to compete with these guys. This kind of lets us know where we are, and we’ve got to get a little better.”

Central was forced into a three-and-out on the game’s first possession, and the Panthers (2-1, 2-0) immediately pounced to get on the board.

Starting at their own 34, the home team went 66 yards in three plays and 1:08, with the drive bookended by long passes from Daniel Litt (111 yards passing, two touchdowns) to Jacoby Mitchell (78 yards receiving, touchdown). The duo hooked up for 36 yards on the Panthers’ first play from scrimmage, and Mitchell caught a 29-yard pass two snaps later, fighting off defenders and diving into the end zone with 8:44 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers went 56 yards later in the first, with senior Michael Johnson taking a pass 23 yards for a score, breaking numerous tackles along the way. In addition to catching that touchdown, Johnson ran for two more scores to lead his team to victory, despite recording only 67 total yards.

The speed and athleticism of the Panthers caused plenty of near-misses for Bulldog defenders throughout the afternoon.

“We missed a lot of tackles and that’s something that we’ve got to work on,” Bennett said. “I mean, that’s the great thing about the game ... you’ve got film to watch and fix your mistakes. Another great thing is we get to line up next week and play again.”

Johnson scored twice more for the Panthers in the second quarter — on touchdown runs of 29 and eight yards, respectively — boosting the home team to a 28-0 halftime cushion.

Central’s best chance of scoring in the opening half came after Dustin Canon (80 total yards) returned a kick to the Southwest DeKalb 43, and a 15-yard penalty against the Panthers on the kick return moved the ball down to the 28.

The Dawgs’ offense could only net four yards on the opportunity, though, and Central ended up turning the ball over on downs.

The Panthers quickly put the game out of reach in the third quarter. Central led off the second half with a squib kick, which Southwest DeKalb fielded at the 50. Junior Kendrun Malcolme (119 rushing yards) then carried the ball on five straight plays, earning the 50 yards needed for a score to make it 35-0.

The Panther defense then forced a quick three-and-out, and the offense scored its sixth touchdown on the ensuing possession.

Good field position started the Panthers only 40 yards from the end zone, and Jeremy Barnett singlehandedly traversed the distance in three rushes.

His 10-yard scoring run with 6:13 left in the third made it 42-0, and the Panthers called off the dogs at that point.

Central’s best offensive showing of the day came after the Dawgs were down six scores.

The visitors started on their own 25 with 6:05 left in the third, and marched down as far as the Panther 3 early in the fourth quarter on the same drive. Canon recorded a 32-yard run on the series to put the Dawgs deep inside the red zone, but was later sacked for an 11-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 3 to end the Dawgs’ scoring chance.

Despite not getting on the scoreboard, Bennett felt his offense adjusted better to the Panthers’ speed in the second half.

“Our kids didn’t quit and they fought, and I was proud of them,” the coach said.

Central now has a short week to prepare for the next challenge, when the Stone Mountain Pirates come calling on Friday night.