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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / Brainerd's Donivon Thomas fends off two Hixson defenders to score a touchdown after making a catch during Friday's game at Hixson, the season opener for both teams.

Brainerd High School scored the first 21 points in its football season opener Friday night at Hixson, going on to win 39-16 in the nonregion matchup.

While starting 1-0 was a positive for Panthers coach Tyrus Ward, just being out on the field feels a little different this year.

"I'm just glad these guys were able to finish a game," Ward said. "I'm glad they were able to be out here. With all this COVID stuff, they've battled so much and overcome. They've been really patient, and I'm super proud."

Brainerd lit up the scoreboard late in the first quarter, scoring three times inside the last five minutes of the period. Quarterback Xiyeer Lattimore started it with an 11-yard run and added a 20-yard touchdown pass to Donivon Thomas.

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Brainerd at Hixson football on Aug. 21, 2020

Allen Ware capped the outburst with a 20-yard run at the 3:10 mark to make it 21-0 headed into the second quarter.

Big plays remained the story for the Panthers throughout the night. They had seven plays covering more than 20 yards, and three of those went for more than 30. That was expected to be a strength of the team this year, and Lattimore is being counted on to lead that effort.

"We have simplified things and were able to come out and execute," Ward said. "They did the simple things we've been able to execute throughout the summer. Hopefully it's just the beginning, and the good Lord gives us a few more (games)."

Hixson didn't generate much in the way of offense in the first half, with the Wildcats' only points coming on a safety to make it 21-2 at halftime. However, they were able to find a bit of a spark in the second half.

While the season started on time, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the preparation process.

"Now we have something to look at and look over," first-year Hixson coach Josh Owensby said. "Normally we have three scrimmages and a jamboree by now. I bet most teams look different from that first scrimmage to their first game, but we're having to use Friday nights to adjust.

"Everyone has to go through the same thing — it's just different."

Nyikee Logan, who rushed for more than 100 yards, scored on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter to make it 33-9. D'von Maples added a 21-yard run with 1:32 left to play to close the scoring.

The Panthers had three second-half scores on two rushes from Lattimore and his second touchdown pass, which went to Diamond Bates.

Contact Idris Garcia at sports@timesfreepress.com.

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