Gridiron-NP Cougars

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New coaches to lead NP

By Brad Greer

After a dreadful 1-8 campaign in 2006, the North Panola Cougars will be looking at a familiar face to guide them into the upcoming 2007 football season.

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Clifton Davis Jr., who prowled the North Panola sidelines for 24 seasons from 1978 to 2002, was recently named head coach, replacing Vincent Johnson who resigned in late July after only one season to return to his home state of Texas.

With having just a few weeks before the season-opener Friday night at Coahoma County, getting to know the names and faces of his players has been a challenge to Davis but said the pieces are falling into place.

 “We have been pleased with the effort the kids are putting forward. The ones that have been here throughout the summer have worked hard. They have done everything we’ve asked them to do. They’re a lot of things we have to work on. We want to make sure we’re a fundamentally sound aggressive football team,” said Davis.

  The wide receiver position will be one of the Cougar’s strong points this season as senior All-District wide receiver/cornerback Bruce Wilbourn returns. Wilbourn accounted for over 1,300 all-purpose yards last season while also returning punts and kickoffs on special teams. Ricky Hunt will join Wilbourn at the wideout position.

North Panola returns six starters on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Junior quarterback Quinn Ellis will be in charge of the offense while a pair of junior running backs Kenny Jones and Rodregus Salter, along with sophomore Vernon Lewis, round out the backfield. Cougar offensive coordinator Clifton Davis III, a 1992 graduate of North Panola who still holds numerous passing records at the school, said Ellis is still a work in progress but is confident in his abilities.

 “You cannot just pick this offense up over night, but he (Ellis) has a good attitude about everything. He has a nice arm but the mental aspect of if is, like I said, a work in progress. The main thing he has to do is go out and get a feel of the game and make his checkoffs at the line of scrimmage and just run the offense,” said Davis III who played two seasons at the University of Memphis in 1992 and 1993.

 Freshman Trey Madkins will lead the offensive line at center while Mississippi St. commitment Templeton Hardy and sophomore Cortez Hibber will be at the tackle slots. Hardy is a Clarion – Ledger ‘Dandy Dozen’ selection and is also rated No. 10 best defensive tackle in the nation by Sophomore Tyrus Mack holds down the tight end position.

Davis has yet to name the guards and who exactly will be on the defensive side of the ball has yet to be determined.

North Panola will face one  of the toughest schedules in recent memory with class 4A opponents Oxford and Lafayette Co. Add in 3A Ripley and fellow Region 2-3A powerhouses Senatobia and Independence, and the Cougars will have their hands full.

 “When you look at our schedule, Oxford and Lafayette Co. jumps out at you. They are year in and year out in the ‘Super 10’ polls and then you have Ripley that seems to have a solid team every year. Our district will be very tough this season with Senatobia and Independence and the other teams will be much improved such as Rosa Fort and Holly Springs,” said Davis.

 District newcomer Lewisburg of Olive Branch will replace Water Valley who drops down to class 2A this season. Following road trips to Coahoma Co. and Ripley to start the season, North Panola will open the home slate against Lafayette Co. on Sept. 14, with district foe Holly Springs the following week.

 Assistant coaches for the Cougars this season will be Eric Rice, Eddie Maxon, Lee Jackson and Sean Norwood.