| By Myra Bean
The physical matchup between South Panola and Starkville was so good, it made the game go faster as the Tigers won 35-0.
This game gave the Tigers (10-0 overall, 6-0 district) the undisputed title of Region 1-5A District Champs. The Tigers will have home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs next week.
Tiger head coach Ricky Woods said on the radio he knew the Yellowjacket team would be tough physically.
Even though that was the case, the Tigers still got the shutout and rounded up 546 total yards of offense against the Yellowjackets.
Starkville was held to 126 total yards of offense. Incidently, Starkville was penalized six times for 40 yards while South Panola pulled seven flags for 65 yards.
"We just played really well," Woods said. "We are getting a little better on offense and defense. We are playing really, really physical.
"Any time of the year you can play real physical, your chances of winning will be greater," Woods continued. "People get tired of you pounding a little bit. It helps to win the game."
This gave the Tigers their 40th straight win dating back from 2003, following the loss at the 2002 state championship game.
The Tigers will play to make it 41 straight and a fourth straight undefeated regular season against Grenada Friday night.
Senior Leroy Diggs led the Tiger march with 178 yards on 16 carries and one touchdown. He completed two of four passes to wide receiver Rodney Gray for 47 yards and one touchdown.
Starkville took the opening kickoff but that possession ended in a punt.
The Tigers’ first possession was capped by the 11-yard touchdown pass from Diggs to Gray with 6:55 on the first quarter clock. With Barrett Johnson’s PAT (point after touchdown) the Tigers led 7-0.
Junior fullback Jeramie Griffin scored the next touchdown on a 12-yard run right up the middle with 3:15 left in the first quarter. Griffin rushed for 51 yards on eight carries for the night. The PAT failed. The Tigers had a 13-0 lead going into the second quarter.
The second quarter started off with some excitement. The Tigers fumbled the ball and the Yellowjackets recovered it on their own 31 yard line.
As Starkville went for the long pass on first down and 10, Tiger defensive back Darius "Tigg" Barksdale intercepted the ball and was down on the 27 yard line.
With the help of a Yellowjacket late hit penalty, Diggs scored on a 12-yard touchdown run with 9:07 left in the first half. With the two-point conversion, the Tigers led 21-0 at the half.
South Panola punted away its first possession of the second half and Starkville turned its first possession over on downs after a decisive Tiger defensive stop.
On the Tigers’ second possession, Barksdale was able to go straight up the middle through the big hole created by the offensive line for a 21-yard touchdown run. With the PAT, the Tigers led 28-0.
The Tigers fumbled their next possession away with 1:46 left in the third quarter on the Tiger 22 yard line.
When Starkville got the ball, the Tiger defense pounced. Junior defensive end Marlon Wilks sacked the Starkville quarterback for a 10-yard loss on first down. Wilks was the leading tackler with seven tackles on the evening.
Then on second down and 20 from the 31, Barksdale pulled down his second interception of the night on the Tiger one yard line with 50 seconds left to go in the third quarter.
The Tigers turned that interception into a touchdown 10 plays and 99 yards later. Sophomore Justin Market scored on a five-yard run with 7:26 left in the game. Johnson’s PAT gave the Tigers the 35-0 win.
Market carried the ball most of that drive. On third down, he carried the ball from the Tiger five to the Starkville 48. Defensive back Kevin Young also saw some time on offense and carried the ball a few yards.
Then on the next Yellowjacket possession, Young stopped the drive with an interception with 4:54 left in the game. On the ensuing drive, the Tigers ran out the clock for the win.
Other Tiger rushers include Mario Nash, 25 yards on four carries; Rickey Sanford, 30 yards on five carries; Young, 17 yards on three carries; Karreem Carr, 26 yards on one carry; Barksdale had 84 yards on 13 carrries and one touchdown; Isaac Taylor had two yards on one carry; and Terrance Griffin had 11 yards on two carries.
The Tigers will wrap up the season at home Friday night hosting the Grenada Chargers in the final district game of the season at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $5 for general admission at the ticket booth which will open at 6 p.m.
Grenada defeated Southaven 28-6 Friday night. Other 1-5A action Friday night saw Olive Branch over Columbus 42-7 and Tupelo shut out Horn Lake 47-0.
In a surprise of the night, Madison Central slaughtered then undefeated Northwest Rankin 50-21 in 2-5A action.