The LFO football program bills itself as a family and families do whatever it takes to help each other when the need arises.
Senior Malachi Powell is the embodiment of that mindset and it's a mindset he plans to bring to the football program at LaGrange (Ga.) College after signing with the NCAA Division III Panthers in a well-attended ceremony at LFO High School this past Wednesday.
"(This day) means a lot," Powell explained. "It means a lot of hard work has paid off. All the time we spent this summer learning new plays, switching offenses and learning defense, it was all worth it."
"It's the family atmosphere down there (at LaGrange)," he continued. "It's what (LFO) Coach (Bo) Campbell has built around all of us up here. We have each others' backs and LaGrange seems like a tight-knit group and a big family as well."
Powell took over as the starting quarterback in the Warriors' run-oriented offense to begin his sophomore year. He collected almost 800 yards passing and nearly 600 yards rushing with 14 total touchdowns in two seasons, earning Region 6-AAA honorable mention honors both years, and helping LFO earn its first home state playoff game since 2004 in his sophomore campaign.
But a few games into his senior year, the Warriors overhauled their offense and Powell made the switch to defense. He went on to show his athletic ability at linebacker, ending the season with 25 tackles, including three for a loss, with one sack and an interception to once again pick up an All-Region nod.
He also continued to help out on offense with one TD pass and five rushing scores, including three touchdowns in a memorable 44-37 home win over Sonoraville that saw LFO pile up 508 total yards with 456 coming on the ground.
Campbell said Powell handled the position change with class and character.
"I've got a 13 year-old son and if he grows up to be like Malachi and grows up to be that type of man, I'll be very proud," Campbell said. "Malachi is a great person with great character and he's a great leader. He's always been that way on our team. He does a great job in the classroom with his grades and he stays out of trouble. I've seen him do stuff for other people in need too, and you just can't ask for better, not just as a football player, but as a young man. I'm so proud of him and his accomplishments."
When asked what he will be able to bring to the LaGrange program, Powell said he was asked the same question by LaGrange head coach Earl Chambers during a combine that Powell attended earlier this year.
"When he asked me that, I told him confidence," recalled Powell, who was recruited by the Panthers to play quarterback. "That's a very young team down there and we had a very young team up here this year, so giving the whole team confidence is kind of what I need to do."
"He's a very smart quarterback and he's very intelligent when it comes to learning different offenses," Campbell added. "I'm excited for him and for our team. It's an accomplishment for Malachi Powell, but it's also an accomplishment for our team because we are a proud family together. Anytime one of our guys gets this kind of recognition and opportunity to get a scholarship at a college and play football, we're excited and we thank LaGrange College for seeing that in him."
Powell plans to study physical therapy.