Rashawn Robinson doing it all for Panthers

There aren't too many schools that can replace a 2,000 yard rusher with someone who comes in and leads the region in rushing as a first year starter, but that's exactly what the Americus High School Panthers did in 2003.

However, most Panthers fans shouldn't be surprised by the person who has stepped in and for the most part has not missed a beat.

Panther senior Rashawn Robinson has made a habit of being a "Johnny on the Spot" for Americus since he first arrived as a freshman in 2000. After playing a variety of positions his first three seasons for the Panthers, including defensive back, linebacker and receiver as well as backing up 2000-yard rusher Michael Terry last year, Robinson has stepped into the role as the lead runner for Americus and in the process has made a splash as one of the best runners in the state.

In the regular season, Robinson has rushed for a region leading 1,191 yards and 19 touchdowns for the 9-1 Panthers, who finished second to Early County in region 1-AA. He also led the region in all-purpose yards as well as scoring. His defining moment may have come against then undefeated Mitchell-Baker, when he rushed for 301 yards and four touchdowns in a big 50-20 win for the Panthers. Robinson showed that he would be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs as well, rushing for 221 yards and three scores in the Panthers' 56-20 win over Greenville in the first round of the state playoffs.

Next up for the Panthers is a much anticipated matchup with Vidalia. The Indians are 10-0-1 this season and boast one of the best defenses in the state. Leading the way is 6'5, 290-pound defensive lineman Eric McClendon, considered by many to be the top prospect in the state of Georgia.

Although Americus is a primarily passing team with stars such as Cedric Johnson (state record 40 touchdowns this year) and Jermaine Allen (state career touchdown reception leader), Robinson is a prominent part of the offense and must be accounted for if anyone wants to defeat the #4-ranked Panthers.

"Rashawn has had a great year for us this season," said Americus High School head coach Erik Soliday. "He is a very versatile athlete, and therefore we are able to use him in a variety of ways. He has taken advantage of the opportunity to start at running back, and he has really improved from last year. He is showing a lot of patience with his blockers and is accelerating through the hole at the right time."

Charles Truitt saw Robinson up close for his first two years during his tenure as defensive coordinator for the Panthers. He has been the Sumter County head coach for two years, and during that time he has seen the improvement in Robinson's play as well.

"Rashawn has always been a player that worked hard and really cared about his level of play," said Truitt, who saw his former protégé rush for 134 yards and two scores against his Rams two weeks ago in a 49-16 Panther win. "He has good vision and find holes wherever they are and gets through them. He is also a good kid who is very intelligent. I am very proud of him."

Soliday echoed Truitt's sentiments.

"Rashawn is a very mature kid who is pretty quiet," said Soliday. "He goes out and performs without a lot of hype and without much fanfare yet he gets the job done. He is a good student who has his head on straight and seems to know what it is all about. He is not just a good football player, but a good person as well."

With his exploits on the field this season, Soliday says that he has gotten many calls and mail regarding Robinson's prospects of playing college football. His coach thinks that many other teams will get to see him play as the Panthers look to march toward their seventh title in the school's final season before the merger.

"The more we win and continue to play, the more people will get to see him play," said Soliday, whose players have had the benefit of being seen by many scouts after three straight trips to the semifinals at the Dome. "He has good size (6'0, 185) and is a hard worker. I think he will do well on the next level, and not only does he have what it takes to succeed in athletics but life as well."

Americus makes the trip to Vidalia this Friday, and if this season has been indication, Robinson will play a major part as they try to upend the talented Indians. The Panthers wouldn't have it any other way.

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