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Sumter County Middle School quarterback Aaron Kearse led his team to the Deep South Middle School Championship Wednesday in Americus. Kearse scored touchdowns running, passing and catching and also hauled in an interception on defense as the Panthers defeated Lee East 38-26.

AMERICUS — The Lee County Middle School East football team ended a stellar season Wednesday but came up short and fell to Sumter County Middle School 38-26 in the championship game of the Deep South Middle School Conference.

The game was an offensive shootout in the first half, but the Trojans were unable to keep pace with the Panthers after quarterback Bryce Carter was unable to play the second half. However, the last few minutes of the game may be the most talked about part of the game.

As the clock ticked down toward the end of the game and the Trojans looking for points, Jerviah Martin, in at quarterback for the Trojans, raced 45 yards through the Panther defense for a touchdown with fewer than four minutes left to play. But the play was called back because of a block in the back penalty. That was the second time in the fourth quarter the Trojans had a long touchdown run called back for a blocking in the back penalty because Maurice Briggs had broken through several tackles and scored on a 44-yard run earlier in the quarter, only to have that play called back.

That upset Lee East coach Russ Hayes, who protested loudly about the call. Apparently, one of his players also said something and the Trojans were called for unsportsmanlike conduct twice as more flags hit the field. After a lengthy delay, Hayes was ejected from the game and escorted off of the field and the Trojans were placed all the way back at their own 30-yard line. After that sequence, they faced long odds.

The game was physical and fast-paced early on as neither team could figure out how to stop the opposing offense. Sumter quarterback Aaron Kearse threw for two touchdown passes and ran a 55-yard touchdown in the first half and then caught a 40-yard touchdown pass and ran another 26-yard touchdown into the end zone in the second half. The other touchdown for the Panthers came from Qua’Shawn Tatum who blew past the middle of the Trojan defense for an 89-yard run just before the end of the first half. On defense, Kearse also picked off a pass to stop a Trojan drive.

The Trojans were staying close early in the game but could not find a way to contain Kearse. The Panthers led 14-6 at the end of the first, and the Panthers stretched the lead to 20-6 after Kearse’s 55-yard run. On the next Trojan possession, Lee East quarterback Carter raced around the right side of the line and past all the Panthers for a 50-yard touchdown run. Later in the second quarter, Carter connected with Jeffrey Anderson on a 45-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 26-18 at the half.

Carter had left the game briefly in the second quarter because of an ankle injury, but later returned to the field. He did not play in the second half.

With Martin in at quarterback the Trojans had trouble getting going in the third quarter. A couple of snaps left the ball on the field with Martin covering them, but losing yards. However, after Martin got comfortable he threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Zac Hall for the only Trojan touchdown of the second half that actually added points on the scoreboard.

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