After a five-year span, the 13th nationally ranked South Panola Tigers (15-0) dominated and crushed the Oak Grove Warriors (14-1) for the 5A State Championship 33-14, Friday, Dec. 5.
Oak Grove took the opening kickoff and knew from that point on, it had little hope of prevailing against the Tiger defense which has refused game after game this year to give.
Playing a turnover-free game in close to freezing temperatures with winds gusting close to 20 miles per hour, this was the Tigers’ year to reign.
Over 14,000 fans from Panola County and Hattiesburg cheered on their respective teams as the two undefeated teams went helmet-to-helmet for the golden prize.
"I’m real proud of the team, coaches, band and the fans," said South Panola School District superintendent Dr. C.L. Stevenson. "It’s takes a big effort to come see the team play. It is good to see the crowd turn out to support the players."
South Panola is under the coaching direction of Ricky Woods. While at South Panola Woods has amassed a 29-1 record and has led the Tigers to the state championship game for the second straight year. Woods has 159 wins to highlight his 15-year coaching career.
This was Woods’ third state title but the first in 5A.
The Tigers got a burst of encouragement from senior center Quinton Hankins on the sidelines. Hankins’ season ended in a broken leg in the North State game against Starkville Nov. 28.
Hankins was rolled out in a wheelchair by offensive line coach Michael Fair. After a few minutes into the game, Hankins spent the remainder of the time on crunches near the action.
South Panola dominated Oak Grove in every area of the game. The Tigers rushed for 390 yards and passed for 68 for a total of 476 offensive yards and only allowed the Warriors 94 rushing yards and 181 passing yards.
Quarterback Derek Pegues scored one touchdown on 19 carries and 47 yards. He completed four of six passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
Tiger junior tailback Marcus Griffin got the nod to run the ball and rushed 34 times for 269 total yards and two touchdowns.
Wide receiver Travis Sanford caught two passes for 46 yards and two touchdowns.
This was the Tigers’ sixth trip to the state championship round and third time to be named champions. Other state championship were won in 1993 and 1998.
See complete game coverage on page B1 of today’s edition of The Panolian.