The first-place Carolina Panthers have set up a showdown in Atlanta on Sunday (Dec. 28, 1 p.m. on FOX). The Panthers have a half-game lead on the Falcons heading into the regular-season finale, so the winner claims the NFC South Division and a home playoff game. 'It's going to be a great environment,' says Carolina LB Luke Kuechly.
The Carolina Panthers rolled out the red carpet for Parkwood High senior offensive lineman Andy Giarla over the weekend. Giarla, a brain cancer survivor in remission, went to Friday's practice and hung out with Luke Kuechly. And after staying in a nice hotel and getting geared up by the team, he banged the "Keep Pounding" drum on game day and then spent part of the evening with Cam Newton. Oh, and the Panthers treated Giarla to their third straight win that puts them in first place in the NFC South.
In 100 years of recorded high school football in North Carolina, Union County has just one state champion (Forest Hills in 1984). UC has lost six state title games in a row over the past 30 years, with the latest being Northern Guilford's 14-7 win over Weddington.
Weddington's football team finished 14-2 and second in the state among 3AA schools, thanks in large part to a defense that allowed 15.4 ppg and had four shutouts. The Warriors' defense is eligible to return nine players with at least 10 starts next season, so expect more of the same.
Carolina won its second game in a row, defeating Tampa Bay for the second time this season by less than a touchdown. Reserve QB Derek Anerson is now 2-0 as a starter in 2014.
Panthers QB Cam Newton and running back DeAngelo Williams are inactive for Sunday's home game against Tampa Bay. Newton is reportedly making a good recovery and is expected to miss just one game after his car accident.