| By Myra Bean
"This is a tough league. You can be good and still lose," said South Panola head coach Ricky Woods, after South Panola handed a tough Horn Lake team a 30-7 loss Friday night.
An overflow crowd of about 3,500 watched the Tigers’ second game of the week as they pulled off an admirable performance. The USA Today nationally ranked No. 14 Tigers defeated Moss Point 20-7 Tuesday.
"They played real well all eight quarters and I am real pleased with the way the team has handled both games this week," Woods said.
The Tigers only practiced one hour per day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to Woods.
South Panola will take a 5-0 overall, 1-0 district record into a highly competitive rivalry game with the No. 2 state ranked Olive Branch on Friday night.
The smack talk has been going on since preseason and has only intensified as the "big day" draws nearer.
This loss dropped Horn Lake to 0-4 on the season, 0-1 district.
"Horn Lake played real well," Woods said. "They have got a good team. It was a hard fought game. They just need to keep their heads up."
The Tigers got 300 yards on the ground and 51 yards in the air.
Senior wide receiver Rodney Gray pulled down five receptions for 48 yards, along with other senior wide receiver Tristan Gleeton with one catch for three yards.
On the rushing side, quarterback Leroy Diggs has really been giving his legs and arms some workouts this week. He completed six of 13 passes for 51 yards and ran for 94 yards on 10 carries and two touchdown runs of 14 and 59 yards, respectively.
Tiger sophomore defensive back Montez Austin and senior linebacker Tarus "Bull" Young pulled down one interception each.
The rest of the defense performed more than expected as Justin Harris, Charles Corley and Kevin Young continued to drop the quarterback and runners behind the line of scrimmage for sacks and tackles for lost yardage. Linebacker Chris Strong led in tackles with seven, followed by Kevin Young and Justin Harris with six each.
Diggs’ first touchdown got the Tigers on the boards first with 7:50 left in the first quarter.
That play was set up by Griffin, who dragged defenders with him to the 14 yard line from the 29.
Austin intercepted an Eagle ball with 6:12 left in the first quarter and returned it to the Eagle 17 yard line.
Four plays later, Ricky Sanford scored on a four-yard run. With the two PATs (point after touchdowns) by Barrett Johnson, the Tigers led 14-0.
The Eagles used their "Eagle crush" (sacks or tackles for loss) to slow the next Tiger run.
Nevertheless, Johnson came through on a 31-yard field goal with 8:52 left in the half. That was the only Tiger score of the second quarter.
The Tigers took a 17-0 lead into halftime.
The Tigers were slated to take the opening kickoff and Horn Lake performed the honors, but with a twist.
Horn Lake attempted an onside kick and it worked. They recovered the ball in Tiger territory. This was such a gutsy play for a winless team to go against a team on a 35-win streak, and nationally ranked to boot.
The Eagle possession lasted less than two minutes as Tarus Young picked off his first interception of the season with 10:44 to go in the third quarter.
The Tigers turned that interception into a 59-yard touchdown run by Diggs with 9:18 on the clock. Diggs worked his way right up the middle through the offensive line hole, cut to the right and sprinted for the score.
Johnson’s PAT gave the Tigers a 24-0 lead.
Horn Lake punted away its next possession but the ball hit a Tiger player and Horn Lake recovered to try again but missed the ensuing 47-yard field goal with 5:57 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers’ next possession was spoiled with an Eagle interception with 4:09 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers started substituting early in the fourth quarter. Diggs took a hit to the ribs and sophomore Mario Nash took the quarterback reigns.
Justin Market was already in the tailback position and pushing his way forward for some yards. He took the ball deep in Tiger territory on the 25 and had what looked like daylight all the way to the end zone.
An Eagle defender had other ideas and brought him down at the Eagle 26 yard line.
Mario Nash completed the drive six plays later on fourth down and one from the five yard line. Nash took the ball in with 6:37 left in the game.
Johnson missed this PAT and the Tiger lead stood at 30-0.
The Eagle starters took advantage of the Tiger substitutes being on the field and scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 3:34 left in the game. With the PAT, the Tiger lead was cut to 30-7.
The Tigers will host Olive Branch Friday at Tiger Field. The ticket booth opens at 5:30 p.m. Reserve tickets are $7 and general admission tickets are $5. Kickoff is 7 p.m.