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Carolina Forest's Kyle Watkins rushes as the Panthers wallop West Florence 63-14 on Friday. The Panthers will play at Conway next Friday for the region championship. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Marc Morris believes teenagers live in the moment.

As much as they’re interested in post-game photo shoots on senior night or seeing some of their stats week to week, they aren’t entrenched enough in history to see that type of perspective.

That’s why he didn’t think any of his Carolina Forest players knew how close this team was making history.

Wrong.

“We knew,” senior receiver Josh Murphy said. “We knew this school had never won a region championship. That was our first goal — for this school, for this community. They deserve it.”

The Panthers moved one step closer to that goal by throttling West Florence 63-14 Friday at home. They scored touchdowns on their first seven possessions, added two more after the game was out of reach and ensured that next week’s game at Conway was for all the region marbles.

The winner of that game will take home the trophy; the loser will fall to No. 2 in the region. That’s where Carolina Forest finished a year ago, but the win over West was just the next bit of evidence that this team is primed to be called the best ever in Panthers’ history.

Reversing fortunes against West was a big part of that. The Knights, who a year ago overpowered Carolina Forest late to effectively win the region title, were also 9-2 against the Panthers since the two schools became region foes in 2008.

Friday looked nothing like any of the other games.

Carolina Forest quarterback Mason Garcia — four days after being selected to the North-South All-Star game and hours after being named the South Carolina Football Coaches Association Palmetto Champions Class 5A Lower State Back of the Year — threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns on nine-of-11 passing. He also ran in two scores and had 52 yards on the ground.

Murphy went for a season-high 149 yards and three touchdowns receiving. And running back David Legette, who has been on a tear the last three weeks, had 139 yards and two touchdowns rushing on just 13 carries.

Meanwhile, a defense that has been allowing fewer than two touchdowns per game held West in check.

“We were physical on defense,” Morris said. “They made some big stops of defense. Of course, we were pretty good on offense, too.”

Considering the Panthers had three one-play scoring possessions, that was certainly true.

But how good can this team be?

“They ain’t Dutch Fork, but they’re really good,” West coach Jody Jenerette said. “[Garcia] is special. He throws the ball as well as anyone I’ve seen. He’s an Everett Golson-type arm talent. [Legette] is electric. They’re real good upfront, too. The thing that never gets talked about is their defense.”

Carolina Forest will take that show up U.S. 501 next week against Conway, a team that is 3-1 in the region, but thanks to its own win over West Florence is still alive for the regular-season title.

Murphy, who already knew about Conway’s loss against St. James Friday night, said what separates this year’s Panthers’ squad from seasons past is the fact that it knows what is in front of it, regardless of the opponent.

“We’re still going to play the same way," he said. "That’s our brand of football and how we believe we’re going to run this program.”

And maybe reach that preseason goal that the players certainly knew all about.

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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