By Myra Bean
STARKVILLE – The first of the sweat wiping has begun as the nationally ranked No. 13 South Panola Tigers claimed the 1-5A district championship after the "war" with the Starkville Yellowjackets Friday night, Oct. 29.
And a war it was as Starkville on its first possession proceeded to march 45 yards down the field and put the opening points on the board.
With 8:05 on the first quarter clock, Starkville led 7-0 after a 38 yard touchdown pass and the point after touchdown (PAT).
In the process, the eyes of the Tigers opened wider as Starkville brought it all to the field.
South Panola quarterback Derek Pegues broke down the game from the players’ points-of-view.
"They [Starkville] were real tough. I knew they were going to be pretty good. That game was probably the best game we have had all season. It was probably the best we played all season. They forced us to play real hard," Pegues said.
Pegues complimented the Starkville defense.
"They were very good on defense. Offensively, their quarterback scrambled a lot and put them in a lot of good situations.We just played hard and stayed on top of them," Pegues said.
On the first Tiger possession, Dandy Dozen, All-American quarterback Derek Pegues did what he does best: put the team on his shoulder and led them to the endzone.
Pegues and tailback Germicheal Sanford moved the ball 71 yards in six plays. Sanford capped the drive with a 17-yard run with 5:38 left in the first quarter.
With the PAT by Russ Belk, the Tigers tied the score 7-7.
It was three and out for the Yellowjackets on their next possession as the Tiger pass defense disallowed pass after pass.
After the punt, the high octane Tiger offense went back to work. This time, Pegues capped an eight play, 52-yard drive with a nine yard run with 32 seconds left in the first quarter.
During the possession, holder Luke Kiihnl went out with a knee injury. Kerry Hoskins held for the PAT, which was blocked, but the Tigers had a 13-7 lead going into the second quarter.
Starkville was able to convert on fourth down and one on its next possession, but ended up punting three plays later.
The Tigers were able to put another score on the boards before the half on another run by Pegues.
With 1:06 left in the half, Pegues capped an 11-play, 62-yard drive with an 11-yard run. The two-point conversion failed and the Tigers led 19-7 at the half.
Just two plays into the third quarter, Tiger receiver Travis Sanford pulled down his sixth interception of the season with just 23 seconds gone.
Belk attempted a 39-yard field goal but it was wide to the left with 7:15 left in the third quarter.
Starkville took its next possession into the fourth quarter, with the Tigers leading 19-7.
At the 9:33 mark, the Yellowjackets scored a 34-yard field goal to cut the Tiger score 19-10. The drive covered 67 yards in 18 plays and used up nearly 10 minutes.
Pegues scored the last points of the evening on a two yard run with 4:37 left in the game. The Tigers took the ball 80 yards in 11 plays, in just over five minutes.
With Belk’s PAT with Kiihnl returning to hold, the Tigers led 26-10.
Towards the end of the game, Jeremy Williams pulled down an interception and was on line to return it for a touchdown. He outran his blockers and was caught short of the end zone at the three yard line for a 60 yard run.
Backup quarterback Karreem Carr took a knee to end the game on the next play.
The Tigers rushed for 271 yards on 47 carries and completed three of five passes for 29 yards. The Tigers’ total offense for the evening was 300 yards.
Starkville was held to 96 rushing yards and completed five of 17 passes for 98 passing yards for a total of 194 yards.
Pegues led the Tigers in this tough battle of wits and strength with 106 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns.
Sanford also rushed for over 100 yards with 102 on 17 carries, averaging six yards per carry, with one touchdown.
Jeramie Griffin rushed for 56 yards on five carries, averaging 11.2 yards per carry. Darius Barksdale saw limited action with nine yards on two carries.
Travis Sanford caught three passes for 29 yards.
The Tigers still have one game left in the regular season. They will travel to West Point (8-2, 4-2) Friday to finish up and wait for the playoff season to begin.
West Point defeated Southaven (3-7, 1-5) 22-6 Friday night. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
In other 1-5A action Friday night, Olive Branch (9-1 overall, 5-1 district) defeated Columbus (4-6, 2-4) 42-0 to earn a playoff berth and second place in the district. They will host Tupelo (5-5, 3-3) Friday night.
Tupelo defeated Horn Lake (2-7, 1-5) 41-20.
Other games Friday to determine playoff lineups include Columbus at Starkville, Horn Lake at Southaven and Olive Branch at Tupelo.
South Panola is set to meet the fourth place team in Regional 2-5A. As of Friday night’s games, Clinton and Grenada are tied for third with both having 4-2 district records.
The third and fourth places between these two teams will be decided on the gridiron Friday when Clinton travels to Grenada.
Directions to West Point High School: Take I-55 South to the Winona Exit. Take a left on Highway 82 East, take the bypass to Columbus before you get into Starkville and go around Starkville. Take the 45 Alternate North exit and keep going until you get into West Point. Cross the Railroad track. See the FastBreak store on the right. At FastBreak take a right onto Churchill Street and go through the first 4-way. At the second 4-way there is a bank on the left. The high school is right in front of you. Take a left and you will see the parking area. Attendants will direct the parking.