LILBURN — For the first half, Tift County had Parkview running back Cody Brown's number. So much so that the Blue Devils held the four-star and No. 2-ranked running back in the country to three yards on nine carries.
But those three yards were a touchdown run late in the second quarter. Brown used that to propel himself to another 142 yards on the ground in the second half, including a 92-yard score, giving the Panthers a 20-7 homecoming win Friday night at the Big Orange Jungle.
"Defensively up front, Tift is really good," Parkview head coach Eric Godfrey said. "They are one of the most talented defensive fronts we'll see. They wore us out in the first half. But we completed some balls to open things up in the run game."
Despite the early struggles by Brown to find running space, the Panthers moved the ball on their first two drives thanks to the passing of quarterback Jordan Williams.
Williams opened the game with a 16-yard completion on third down to Elijah James, putting the ball on the 46. After being forced into a fourth-and-one, Williams kept the ball and sidestepped a defender to gain eight yards and a first down.
The Panthers (2-1) stalled there, but got a 50-yard field goal by Nolan McCord to give them a 3-0 lead with 7:47 to go in the first quarter.
After forcing the Blue Devils (1-4) to punt on their first drive, the Panthers got the ball back. Williams found James again in stride, hitting him for 49 yards to move the ball to the Tift 22-yard line.
The Blue Devils' defense stood strong again and the Panthers were forced to settle for another field goal, this one from 34 yards by McCord, putting the Panthers up 6-0 with 3:33 to go in the first quarter.
On its next drive, Tift got some movement in its running game, getting first downs on two different fourth-down rushes to keep the ball. After a 14-yard run by Zach Carter, the Blue Devils were set up on the Panthers' 48. However, Jeffrey Butler fumbled the ball on the next play as Parkview's Kwesi Tillman recovered, giving the ball back to the Panthers.
From there, the Panthers methodically moved the ball down the field. An eight-yard completion to C.J. Daniels on third down moved the ball to the 38. Three plays later, James took an end around 14 yards, giving the Panthers yet another first down, this time on the Blue Devils' 36.
A sack and offensive holding pushed the Panthers back to second-and-26 on the 48, but completions of 14 and 11 yards to Brown in the flats, gave the Panthers a fourth-and-one, which Brown converted.
Three plays later, Brown got the edge and barreled into the end zone from the 3 for a 13-0 lead with 2:05 to go before halftime.
Tift looked to score on its second drive on the first half, thanks in part to a defensive pass interference call. The Blue Devils slowly moved the ball down the field, eventually getting into a fourth-and-goal situation from the 5. The Blue Devils went for it and brought out their bag of tricks with a double-reverse pass. However, officials deemed the receiver to be out of bounds when he made the catch, turning the ball back over to the Panthers on downs.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Blue Devils got the ball back on the Parkview 44. A long run by Carter went for 37 yards, but it was an ankle tackle by Parkview's Kobe Wilson (Memphis commit), saved a touchdown. Four plays later, Tift quarterback Tyler Parker was stopped behind the line of scrimmage on an option keeper, giving the ball back to the Panthers.
"That (ankle tackle) by Kobe was purely an effort play and it didn't surprise us in the least bit that it was Kobe," Godfrey said. "That's the type of kid he is. He's going to lay it all of the line every play. And that tackle is probably what won us the game."
On the very next play, Brown burst through the middle of the line, bouncing off would-be tacklers on the second level before spinning out of a safety's tackle. A sprint to the left sideline saw a Blue Devils' cornerback chase him down, but Brown refused to go to the ground and made it into the end zone for a 92-yard scoring run, giving the Panthers a 20-0 lead with 7:29 to go in the game.
"Coach called my number and I saw the defender coming downhill and I just said, 'I'm not going down,'" Brown said. "I told my coach before the play I was going to get him one.
"It was tough early on, but I just had to stay true to my game and keep running for my team."
Tift added a touchdown on its next drive, thanks in part to a 36-yard completion to Jerehmiah McKinnon. After a targeting call moved the ball to the 15, the Blue Devils scored three plays later on a 15-yard slant pass to Azaria Smith, bringing the score to 20-7 with 5:19 to go in the game.
The Blue Devils got the ball back one more time, but were unable to do anything with the ball as Parkview celebrated its homecoming win.
Brown finished the game with 145 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns on the ground and four catches for 46 yards through the air, while Williams was 13 of 19 for 166 yards. James also finished with three catches for 72 yards.
Tift was led by Butler on the ground with 79 yards on 13 carries, while Carter had 54 yards on eight carries.
PARKVIEW 20, TIFT COUNTY 7
Tift County 0 0 0 7 — 7
Parkview 6 7 0 7 — 20
Parkview: Nolan McCord 50 field goal 7:47
Parkview: McCord 34 field goal 3:33
Parkview: Cody Brown 3 run (McCord kick) 3:05
Parkview: Brown 92 run (McCord kick) 7:29
Tift County: Azaria Smith 15 pass from Tyler Parker (Pedro Mendoza kick) 5:19