SWD wins first playoff game in eight years



The Southwest DeKalb Panthers (8-3) won its first playoff game since 2009 after beating the Banneker Trojans (8-3) 35-17 in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs at William “Buck” Godfrey Stadium, named after the football program’s former coach. The win also gave the program its 500th win in program history.

Head coach Damien Wimes, who was an assistant coach on the team that won the playoff game in 2009, said the win was good for the players, school and community.

“[The players] laid a brick tonight…they’re building and bringing the foundation of the program back,” Wimes said. “I’m just happy they are successful, and whatever part I played in it I thank God for it, but I’m just happy they were successful, and they get to see what it feels like to win a playoff game.”

Quarterback Justin Tomlin, who missed the final two games of the regular season after spraining his shoulder against Lithonia Oct. 27, led his team with four touchdowns—three in the air and one on the ground. Tomlin said he did not feel any effects from his injury during the game.

“I felt great tonight,” Tomlin said. “This team is my family, so when I was down they picked me up. They picked me up the whole week during practice to get back right and to do good.”

“He’s back,” Wimes said of Tomlin. “He worked hard to get back for this game. When Justin Tomlin is on he’s the best high school quarterback I’ve ever coached.”

After a couple of punts early in the game, Tomlin and the Southwest DeKalb offense got rolling midway through the first quarter when Tomlin hit Michael Pace on an 11-yard slant pass in the end zone, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead.

Banneker responded on the following kickoff, with Tarique Dennis returning the kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown, tying the game.


In the second quarter, SWD’s Jamel Starks intercepted a Banneker pass and returned it to the 1-yard line. Tomlin would score on the next play on a 1-yard touchdown run, giving the Panthers a 14-7 lead.

Banneker would again take advantage of SWD’s special teams play on the kickoff. Dennis fielded the kickoff again and returned it to the 7-yard line. However, the Panthers’ defense kept Banneker out of the end zone and forced the Trojans to kick. James Efrimea made the 25-yard field goal to cut SWD’s lead to 14-10.


Wimes said he and the coaching staff will address special teams in practice.

“We have to develop better ways to angle-kick the ball,” he said. “He was supposed to kick it at an angle, but kicked it to their fastest player, and then he did it again. So, we have to correct that and not let the best player beat us.”

Southwest DeKalb responded to Banneker’s score with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Tomlin to Myles Litt, extending their lead to 21-10 before halftime.

In the third quarter, Banneker put together a nice drive to start the second half and got inside the 20-yard line. However, the Panthers’ defense kept them out of the end zone again and forced a field goal attempt, but this time Efrimea missed the 19-yard attempt.

The Panthers took advantage of the missed field goal with Tomlin hitting Aquil Muhammed deep on a 56-yard touchdown pass, extending to lead to 28-10. In the fourth quarter, Starks gave his team a 35-10 lead on a 7-yard touchdown run.

Banneker scored with 30 seconds left in the game on an 11-yard pass, bringing the final score to 35-17.
Tomlin, who has been the Panthers’ starting quarterback since his freshman year, said it was an honor to win his first playoff game at Southwest DeKalb.

“We haven’t won a playoff game since 2009 and to do it with these boys who I’ve been with for four years now, it’s just a great honor,” he said.

The Panthers will travel to Rome Nov. 17 to take on the Rome Wolves in the second round. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.

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