AOTW: Crawford lights fire under undefeated Panthers

As often happens in season openers, Carolina Forest was suffering through some first-game jitters in a scoreless first half against visiting Lower Richland.

With the defense holding firm and the offense struggling to get untracked, someone had to make a play – and that someone was senior linebacker Bryce Crawford.

The Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week recovered a blocked punt on special teams for the Panthers’ first score of the season. He later forced a fumble that led to a scoop-six and a 14-0 lead. After breaking the ice with defense and special teams, the offense got in the act in the second half en route to a 34-14 victory.

“Our defense played really good in that first game and we’re just trying to keep it going,” Crawford said. “We’re constantly playing defense to set up our offense and help them get on a roll.”

The Panthers have been rolling ever since, improving to 2-0 with last week’s 40-14 win over Colleton County. Carolina Forest coach Marc Morris credits Crawford for his leadership in the hot start to the season.

“Bryce has been a three-year starter for us now and he’s a good leader on the field and in the locker room,” Morris said. “He means a lot to our defense. I can see him playing on Saturdays one day.”

But first the Panthers have a Friday date on the road with North Carolina power Hoggard (2-0). Crawford thinks the Panthers are up for the challenge and on the right path to a possible run to program’s first Class 5A region championship.

“This year’s team is different,” Crawford said. “It’s more like a brotherhood and everyone is playing for each other. In the past I think we’ve just been playing for our school or our families. Now we’re out to win for each other and prove some people wrong.

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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