It took four quarters of tough play for the South Panola Tigers to claim their fourth consecutive undefeated season.
The Tigers (11-0 overall, 7-0 district) downed Grenada and its hard knocks 27-10 Friday night in a district showdown.
The loss ended Grenada’s (6-5 overall, 3-4 district) season.
South Panola will host Vicksburg in the first round of the North 5A playoffs.
Other playoffs in 5A include Columbus at Northwest Rankin; Starkville at Madison Central; Warren Central at Olive Branch; Gulfport at Oak Grove; Brandon at Ocean Springs; Hattiesburg at George County and Moss Point at Meridian.
Grenada entered with an air game which challenged the Tiger pass defense. Grenada completed 12 of 27 attempts for 147 yards and two interceptions.
Intercepting the ball for the Tigers were senior Karreem "Moody" Carr and sophomore Darius "Tigg" Barksdale.
Junior tailback Rickey Sanford was the game’s leading rusher with 153 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown.
Junior quarterback Leroy Diggs followed with 76 yards on 16 carries. Barksdale had 40 yards on four carries and one touchdown. Junior fullback Jeramie Griffin rushed for 44 yards on nine carries.
Grenada received the opening kickoff then fumbled and South Panola’s Karreem "Moody" Carr recovered the ball on the 23 yard line.
Two plays later Barksdale scored the first Tiger touchdown on a 20-yard run with 56 seconds ticked off the clock. He broke through the line of scrimmage and hot footed it up the middle to the endzone. Barrett Johnson’s PAT gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers punted away the possession and Grenada got the ball on the Tiger 22 yard line. The Chargers could not get it any closer than the 10 yard line and had to settle for a 27 yard field goal with 6:27 left in the first quarter to cut the Tiger lead to 7-3.
The Tigers got some unexpected help in the second quarter in the form of a 20-yard touchdown pass from Diggs to junior tight end Vandell Pollard with 4:54 left in the first quarter. With the PAT, the Tigers led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Sanford was also instrumental in this drive, with a run from the Tiger 20 to the Grenada 32 for a 48-yard run.
Close to the end of the quarter, South Panola was penalized for a pass interference call which put Grenada on the 18 yard line to begin the second quarter.
Grenada went for the touchdown on third down and eight from the 16, but Tiger Barksdale was there for the interception, his fifth of the year, in the endzone with 10:35 left in the first half.
Grenada’s next possession ended in a missed 41-yard field goal with 5:59 left in the first half.
Then the Tigers had to punt away their next possession and Grenada got it on their own 37. On first down and 10, Grenada completed a pass to the Tiger 27 yard line.
Five plays later, the Chargers scored their one and only touchdown on an 11-yard pass with 2:51 left in the half. With the PAT, the Tiger lead was cut to four, 14-10.
The Tigers started their next drive on their own 16 yard line with 2:50 left in the half. Using their run game, the Tigers got down to the Grenada 34. Only one pass play was completed during the drive.
Then, using the air game to their advantage, Diggs found senior wide receiver Rodney Gray for a 34-yard touchdown in double coverage at the left corner of the endzone. Johnson’s kick was blocked and the Tigers took a 20-10 lead into halftime.
South Panola scored one touchdown in the second half. Sanford scored on a three-yard run in the third quarter at the 6:03 mark. With the PAT, the Tigers sealed the game 27-10.
On one of their punts in the fourth quarter, Griffin had to rekick because the officials denied seeing Grenada fumble the ball and South Panola recovering it. The Tigers turned the ball over on downs and the Grenada possession ended when Carr intercepted the ball with 8:45 left in the game.
The Tigers had 360 rushing yards and 58 passing yards for a total of 418 yards of offense.
Grenada had 26 yards on the ground added to its 147 passing yards for 173 yards of total offense.
South Panola had possession of the ball double that of Grenada with 32:08 to 15:52 minutes.
The Tigers had two fumbles and lost one. Grenada lost its one fumble.
South Panola was penalized eight times for 61 yards. Grenada was penalized five times for 43 yards.
One of the penalties for Grenada came late in the fourth quarter. The 25-second clock was started before the ball was placed and the officials had the clock reset.
Grenada’s coach argued with the official and was hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty. It took almost five minutes for the officials and the coach to straighten out the situation.
The playoff game for South Panola and Vicksburg will begin at 7 p.m. No reserve tickets will be sold for playoff games. All tickets are $7. Tickets can be bought from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday only at the high school and at the ticket booth which will open at 6 p.m.