Carolina Forest’s record includes just one blemish — a Sept. 20 loss to Myrtle Beach — but that defeat continues to haunt the Panthers.
And their opponents are paying for it.
A week after demolishing Socastee 63-0, the Panthers (5-1, 2-0 region) routed South Florence 49-7 on the road Friday.
“That’s been motivating us,” junior safety Connor Meehan said of the Myrtle Beach defeat. “It’s our chip on our shoulder right now.”
Meehan added the exclamation point to Friday’s victory, picking up a fumble and returning it for the final score of the game. The play capped off a strong defensive performance that complemented a stellar offensive game. Running back David Legette rushed for three touchdowns and quarterback Mason Garcia threw for two scores and ran for another.
“That was a big win for us,” Carolina Forest coach Marc Morris said. “[South Florence] is coming off three wins in a row coming in to tonight. They’ve always been a hard opponent for us.”
Carolina Forest’s ground game started strong, with Garcia and Legette racking up yardage early.
A long Garcia run set up the Panthers at the South Florence 8 yard line. On the next play, Legette found the end zone, giving Carolina Forest a 7-0 lead with 5:41 to go in the first quarter.
The Panthers extended the lead four minutes later with another Legette rushing score.
The Bruins got on the scoreboard in the second quarter with an 8-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. But the Panther offense again responded. Garcia found wideout Trevor Lavallee from 29 yards out to make the game 21-7.
South Florence threatened again before half, driving inside the Carolina Forest 10. This time, however, the Carolina Forest defense half and a fourth down pass fell incomplete.
The Panthers led 21-7 at halftime.
Carolina Forest caught a break to begin the third quarter when South Florence fumbled the opening kickoff. The Panthers marched down the field and Garcia punched in the TD.
The Panthers blew the game open a few minutes later when Garcia connected with wide receiver Kyle Watkins for a long touchdown pass.
Meehan’s big moment gave the defense a chance to flex.
“I was coming downhill to come make the tackle and my middle linebacker Luke Janack stripped the ball out and it bounced off to the left and I just picked it up,” he said. “My teammates got me a few blocks, so I’m thankful for that, and I spun off a tackle and then it was pretty much a foot race to the end zone.”
For Carolina Forest, the dominant win came despite not having center Mason McCue and getting limited minutes from Shine Bowl offensive lineman Darin Goss. Both players have been battling injuries.
Morris praised their back-ups, right tackle Riley Dular and center Daniel De La Santos.
“They’ve just done a great job for us,” he said.
Carolina Forest faces another region foe next week in St. James. The Sharks are winless in region play.