| By Myra Bean
Friday night, all three local teams kick off the 2006 football season.
The main focus of each team will be its quarterback, at least for the first offensive possession.
North Delta will have first year junior quarterback at the helm. First year head coach Richard Russo will be directing things from the sidelines.
South Panola will be led by second year starting senior calling the shots. Fifth year head coach Ricky Woods will be calling his shots from the sideline.
, senior lefthander, will lead the Cougar charge for the second straight year. North Panola will have first year head coach Vincent Johnson directing things for the Cougars.
North Delta, ranked No. 2 in MPSA A pre-season polls by The Clarion Ledger, is the only local team at home and will host big, long time rival 3A Magnolia Heights from Senatobia.
The Chiefs are ranked No. 5 in the MPSA AAA preseason polls.
North Panola will be on the road to face Booneville. Neither team earned a preseason ranking in MHSAA 3A.
South Panola entered the preseason nationally ranked at No. 4 by the National Tony Poll and ranked No. 1 in the state by The Clarion Ledger.
Friday, the Tigers will travel to Clarksdale to take on the Wildcats who are ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 1 in MHSAA 4A.
Each of the quarterbacks sat down to a preseason interview to discuss their takes on their teams this year.
South Panola: Leroy Diggs
Leroy Diggs has to keep his mind on directing the South Panola Tiger team this year even though his future eye is bent on playing college ball somewhere. He is entertaining the idea of playing at Ole Miss, Mississippi State or Alabama.
Last year he was the second leading rusher with 1,415 yards on 219 carries and scored 15 touchdowns. He completed 50 passes for 961 yards last year and 16 touchdowns.
He said his first love was to play on defense, "but I like playing quarterback though."
Diggs said his main job is to keep the team together, go out and play together and try to win.
"It feels good being the quarterback of South Panola, knowing you are the leader of the team," Diggs said.
As for this year, Diggs said the coaches have asked the players on this nationally-ranked team to do what the players on the non-ranked teams are doing: go out play hard throughout the whole game and practice hard.
Even though South Panola is a nationally ranked team, Diggs said they feel the same.
Diggs contributes the success of the Tiger team to open communication between the players.
"We tell each other what we have to do, work out hard, let each other know what they have to do, let them know what they mess up on," he said. "We let each other know everything. We just work together."
That will be necessary when the Tigers face what could be their toughest opponents of the season the first four weeks.
"It’s a hard schedule," Diggs said. "I don’t know about the rest of them. I haven’t heard about them yet. The first four games are supposed to be real good, especially Clarksdale."
In the offseason and during practice, Diggs said he has been working on what he was not very good at last year. What was that?
"Passing the ball," Diggs said.
There will be some new targets for Diggs this season after the graduation of Rodney Gray in Roderick Jefferson and Montez Austin.
Backing up Diggs are David Conner and Mario Nash. Diggs will also see some time in the safety and cornerback positions on defense.
He is the son of Anita Diggs of Batesville and Leroy Sanford of Sardis.
North Delta: J.T. Dalrymple
J.T. Dalrymple played wide receiver last year.
"I always wanted to play quarterback," Dalrymple said. "I got a chance to quarterback and am making the best of it. I do pretty good."
Before spring practice, Dalrymple said Russo approached him about being the quarterback.
"He had heard I could throw real good," Dalrymple said. "I told him I would like for him to give me a shot at it."
Dalrymple is excited about the upcoming season and what is happening on the team.
"We have a pretty good team," he said.
North Delta ended last season 8-3, but missed out on the playoffs with two district losses.
Dalrymple said it was a big switch to go from catching the ball to throwing the ball but he said he is "pretty good" at throwing. Even though the gameplan for the Green Waves includes running the ball first, according to Dalrymple.
Dalrymple expects big things of himself at the quarterback position.
"I have to step up and do some stuff and lead the team," he said.
He is also the field goal kicker and punter for the Green Waves. He is 5’11" and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds.
Dalrymple admitted the Green Waves did not play like a team last year. Things are now different under first year coach Russo and the excitement is building at North Delta.
The players, with Dalrymple at the helm, are looking forward to matching shoulder pads with the Chiefs in the big showdown Friday night.
"We are ready for them," Dalrymple said about Magnolia Heights. "We are very excited.
"He (Russo) came in and set a new atmosphere for everyone," Dalrymple added. "He brought the team together. That is what we needed."
Some receiving targets are Josh Garrott and Blane Joyner.
Running the ball will be Dakota Mabry at fullback, Nick Douglas and Evan West, who switch out depending on the formation.
Dalrymple also has some plays designed especially for him.
"You are running the offense basically, calling the shot," he said. "I just love it. It feels pretty good."
Dalrymple is the son Tim Dalrymple and Kim Jackson. He has a brother and two sisters.
His grandparents are Joe and Betty Herron, and Harold and Peggy Dalrymple, all of Batesville.
His future plans include playing college ball somewhere as a kicker and maybe baseball.
North Panola: Perry Trammell
Though North Panola has struggled the last two seasons, quarterback Perry Trammell is determined to latch onto first year head coach Vincent Johnson’s philosophy, "Heading in a New Direction."
One of the first things Johnson did was the team was to change their conditioning practices. He upped them.
"He’s got us going through a lot of conditioning, getting ready for the season," Trammell said of Johnson. "He’s not that hard to get adjusted to. He makes us run a lot."
Trammell has also been working harder on his technique at the quarterback position. That includes his dropping back and making sure he has all his mechanics and steps right.
Under this new system, Trammell said he has learned some things.
"I learned even if you make a big play, I can’t always come back on that play and say I made this play," he said. "You have to keep going all through the game. You can’t get down on yourself, have to always be positive about everything."
As a senior and quarterback of the team, Trammell said the coach has asked him to lead the team on the field and in the hallway.
"Whatever the seniors do, the others will follow," Trammell said.
The positive thing with this year’s team is the players are working hard.
"We are working hard and we are better than last year’s team," Trammell said. "Everybody’s going in the same direction."
In the backup quarterback position is Trammell’s cousin, Quin Ellis.
The starting center position is still up for grabs with Curtis Arnold and Rodregus Salter vying for the position.
"The exchange from both are good," Trammell said.
In the receiver position are Bruce Wilbourn, Jarvis Taylor and Denard Presley.
Running backs include Hector Williams and Joshua Armstrong.
The North Panola quarterback is the son of Wanda Trammell and Perry Trammell. He has three sisters and one brother.
His grandparents are David Trammell and Julia Trammell of Sardis and Queen Esther Norwood of Batesville.