Injuries have plagued the Banks County High School football team throughout the 2017 season, and Friday night’s regular-season finale in Homer wasn’t immune from them either.
The Leopards (5-5, 4-2 Region 8-AA) will be on the road for the first round of the Class AA state playoffs next Friday after falling to Elbert County 43-22. The Leopards are the No. 3 seed from the region. The opponent is to be determined.
Injuries plagued the quarterback position throughout the season and hit the running back spot two weeks ago when senior Clayton Dykhouse went down. Terrance Walker stepped in for him and put together strong performances at Social Circle and last week vs. Putnam County.
On Friday, Walker was on his way to another strong performance, rushing for 191 yards and two scores in the opening 14 minutes of the game. But an injury caused Walker to leave the game.
Sawyer Pace, who replaced Trevor Thomas earlier in the season but missed time due to injury, returned last week. But for the second time this season, he left a game due to injury after a 13-yard run late in the first quarter.
But the game, according to head coach Josh Shoemaker, was a “tale of two halves.”
“We were playing with (Elbert),” he said. “We were just fine.”
The game was tied 22-22 at the time of Walker’s injury.
“We were clicking right along,” Shoemaker said. “That’s a dang good football team right there. I told you they had a lot of speed and boy they showed it off.
“We were OK in the first half and then Sawyer goes down and doesn’t get hit, just lands wrong. We lose him and then Terrance goes down and that was a big change in the momentum of the game. For our kids, it’s like ‘Really? Here we go again.’ So, we did OK. In the second half, (Elbert) just overtook us with their speed. We didn’t have an answer for it.”
Jacob Lehotsky rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for five yards. The Leopard offense picked up 13 first downs in the game.
It is the first time since 1996-97 the Leopards are making back-to-back appearances in the state playoffs.
“We would have much rather been here next Friday, but we get to go on the road,” Shoemaker said. “So, that’s what we’re going to do.
“We’re going to bring (the team) in and try to fix the stuff we’ve got to get fixed and then we’ll just keep getting after it.”
Shoemaker added the second-straight playoff appearance is “huge” for the program.
“It’s big for us to just get in the playoffs again,” he said. “Again, our goal was to get in. Obviously, we would have rather been two but we’ll take three.
“That’s big for our kids and big for our seniors to get to play another game.”
Friday night was also senior night for the Leopards. Shoemaker said he could “probably fill up a whole newspaper” talking about them.
“If you look at us offensively and defensively, there’s a bunch of seniors on both sides and nobody’s coming off the field, special teams and all that,” he said. “One thing I’ll say about our kids, they’ll run through a brick wall for you.
“They’re great kids. They’ve been tremendous to our program. There’s a bunch of those kids that have come up through this program from 6, 7, 8 years old that are from here and grew up here and that’s a big thing for us. I’m proud of them.”