That mission was accomplished after the Panthers defeated the Coosa Christian Conquerors 35-0 in a Class 1A, Region 7 battle in Gadsden.
“I want the kids to win everyday and just not keep things the same, meaning no turnovers or things to hurt themselves,” Spring Garden coach Jason Howard said. “Our motto is to always move forward and just get better and never be the same.”
“This is something the kids wanted. I was proud for them. These kids have been through a lot. They’ve all worked hard. I was on their tails all summer long. I’ve ridden them pretty hard. For them to get this accolade, that’s a good thing for them.”
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and punched it in on an 11-yard score by Will Ivey with 10:01 remaining in the quarter.
Coosa looked to answer with an even longer drive, holding the ball nearly all of the first quarter, but Spring Garden’s defense held Coosa on their own 8-yard line.
“I thought our defense played real well,” Howard said. “They had the ball inside the 20-yard line several times where we had to come up with a stop on them. I thought Coach (Barrett) Ragsdale and Coach (Damon) McDonald did a good job of getting the defensive game plan together and carrying it out.
“We were a little sluggish the first half, and they moved the ball on us some, but the guys came out in the second half and had a little more focus about themselves. They executed a lot better.”
Panther senior running back Forrest Livingston took the ball on the final play of the first quarter 93 yards for a score to end the quarter, giving the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
Livingston was the Panther workhorse for the night, rushing for 244 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. He also had 10 total tackles on defense (7 solo, 3 assists).
“I felt like he ran the ball hard,” Howard said. “I think 244 yards on 13 carries speak for themselves.”
Coosa tried to respond again with another successful long drive, but again was shut out of the end zone.
The Panther offense was ready to go after a long rest on the sideline as junior tailback Tyler Morgan hustled in from 10 yards out to extend Spring Garden’s lead to 21-0 with 3:28 remaining in the half.
Morgan finished the game with 92 yards rushing with two touchdowns.
As time ticked away, Coosa changed its pace as Ben Mills connected with three different receivers to get a quick 39 yards on the final drive of the half. However, the drive ended with a sack by Jake Grogan.
Coosa maintained a decent drive to open the third quarter, only to be stopped short once again.
And, once again, the Panthers took advantage as Livingston muscled his way into the end zone for his second score of the night with 5:04 remaining in the quarter.
Grogan made another big defensive play with an interception later in the third quarter that led to Morgan’s second touchdown – a 14-yard run to end the quarter and the night’s scoring.
Coosa’s offense was led by Ben and Austin Mills. Ben Mills had over 100 yards of total offense, while Austin Mills rushed for over 100 yards.
“We came in wanting to prevent the big play,” Coosa Christian coach Van Owens said. “We accomplished our blocking schemes a little better tonight. We challenged our offensive lineman this week at practice and they rose to the occasion, but we just had some self-inflicted wounds that didn’t help us. Those things happen, and we will see improvement as we do each week.”