BATESVILLE – Throw out the records. The South Panola tigers and the Starkville Yellowjackets will meet face-to-face.
The kicker is if South Panola wins this game they will win the 1-5A district championship.
"It’s not going to be a game. It’s going to be a war. That’s what you play for," said Tiger head coach Ricky Woods.
The nationally ranked No. 13 USA Today Tigers (9-0 overall, 5-0 district) will travel to enemy territory tonight to take on the fighting Yellowjackets (4-4 overall, 2-3 district).
The Tigers, going for a history making 25-game win streak, have already clinched a playoff berth, so that’s one hurdle leaped.
The talk between these two teams is erasing the two-hour drive and 105 miles that separate the two schools.
The Tigers have national reasons to do a little talking. They still top the Associated Press Polls where they have been all season. They are listed on the USA Today poll at 13, national poll up to 18 and on the Tony National Poll at 19. The Tigers have outscored their opponents 388 to 83, the most points in 5A and 4A statewide, and the fourth most points in all regions statewide.
South Panola head coach Ricky Woods is highly complimentary of the team’s efforts over the past nine weeks.
Woods said the team is almost hitting on all cylinders. The team has been plagued with some injuries.
Tightend Justin Davis has been out for three weeks and Woods did not know if he will get to play tonight.
"He is still questionable," Woods said.
"We are playing really, really well," he added. "I thought overall the Southaven game was our best game of the year. We were really pleased with the kids’ performance, all of them. We didn’t have a bad game."
At this point of the season, Woods said the team is having fun.
"The kids are enjoying it. We are practicing hard. That’s what you need to be doing this time of year. It gets to being a long year if you don’t. I think we are where we need to be. I think we are as good as we can be at this point," Woods said.
The game is most likely to be in more warm weather with some rain in the forecast.
Woods said he sort of likes this warm weather.
"I don’t like it real hot but I don’t like it real cold either. It’s about right for me. I don’t know how the kids feel about it. They are adapting well. Everything’s going really, really well for us," he said.
Woods also commented on the positive attitudes of the team.
"The attitudes are straight and are real important. We have some good leaders on our team. We have some good young kids who have really stepped up for us. That’s real positive. Our older kids are playing hard and leading by example," Woods added.
Starkville, under returning first year head coach Bill Lee, is struggling through some conference games.
They did however give the Associated Press No. 6 ranked Olive Branch a tough row to hoe last week in the 7-3 loss.
The Yellowjackets know how to win as their seven trips to the state championship round proves. Of those seven games, they have four champion rings to show for their efforts. The last visit to the state championship was in 2001 where they shut out Moss Point 34-0.
This year the Yellowjackets’ trip to the playoff round is in jeopardy. The Yellowjackets know they are in a win/lose situation if they cannot pull out a victory over the Tigers tonight and Columbus next Friday.
There is a three way tie for fourth place in the district right now. Starkville, Columbus nad Tupelo each have a 2-3 district records and need the final two wins to claim that fourth spot.
South Panola is in first, followed by Olive Branch with one district loss and West Point with two district losses.
The playoff picture should become clearer after tonight’s games but some spots will hinge on next week’s games.