Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Pogue era begins
By Myra Bean
South Panola opens the 2007 season Thursday night with a state record 60-0 consecutive wins. And with a new coach at the helm, long time opponents thinks this is their year to take the champs down.
“People are going to try to knock us off. We understand that,” said Tiger head coach Lance Pogue in a preseason interview.
Pogue came to South Panola in March to replace Ricky Woods who retired from the Mississippi School System to take a head coaching position in Bainbridge, Ga.
Woods left the team after five years with a 74-1 record. With him, three assistant coaches also left South Panola for other positions.
So Pogue spent the spring getting to know his team and filling holes on the coaching staff.
Staying around to help Pogue out as defensive coordinator is Willis Wright, who led South Panola to its first state championship in 1993.
“He is in his normal role and does an outstanding job,” Pogue said. “I feel real good about where we are on defense.”
That championship opened up a flood gate of championship desires that cannot be stemmed.
Also remaining on the coaching staff are long time coaches Arnie Oakes, tightends; Mark Weaver, defensive line; John Davis, B-Team; and Gary Sims, Jr. High.
New to the staff are defensive back coach Ben Ashley; offensive coordinator Trey Dickerson; and offensive line coach William Stewart.
“The kids have been really, really receptive, great attitude,” Pogue said. “We are doing some things somewhat different, not much, but somewhat from the offense in the past. So we have had a transition there. We have had the spring and the summer and here in the preseason so we feel like we are on solid ground with our new offense.”
Coaching the players at South Panola is no different from coaching the players at smaller schools, according to Pogue.
“Football is football,” he said. “You are dealing with kids. That’s the name of the game. That’s why we are in this business.”
Pogue knows whose footsteps he is following in with the dynasty that has become known as the University of South Panola football.
In the Clarion-Ledger preseason football section Sunday, in an interview with former coach Woods, Woods advises Pogue to be himself. Pogue is taking his advice.
“I am not putting any of that on me,” he said. “I am just concerned about 2007 football season.”
Pogue said he is not feeling the pressure yet of trying to extend the win streak or bringing home a fifth straight championship trophy.
“I have enjoyed the preseason practice and all,” Pogue said. “The kids have great attitudes. We are just working on ourselves right now, trying to make our team the best that we can and working on preparation for Warren Central.”
The state- and nationally-ranked South Panola team boasts a roster of 75 players, many seniors and juniors from last year who saw a lot of playing time.
Getting a lot of attention is The Clarion-Ledger “Dandy Dozen” Darius “Tigg” Barksdale, who is also considered one of the top 100 recruits in the nation.
Along with Barksdale leading the team are his cousin, defensive back Bud Barksdale and teammates offensive linemen Cameron Wagner and Jonathan Wilson. Bud, Cameron and Jonathan graced the cover of the Clarion-Ledger preseason special along with Pogue.
These are some the keys players Pogue will depend on to lead the team through the tough times.
On the offense, Pogue also named tight end David Baker to help lead the team.
“These guys have been there a lot from the offensive stand point,” Pogue said. “They can provide positive quality leadership when times get tough.”
On the defensive side, Pogue said lineman Terrance Pope, linebackers Marvin Burdette and David Conner are quality leaders the others look up to and can “rally around“ when they need to lean on each other in tough times.
“We will see some tough times,” Pogue said. “That’s just the nature of 5A football.
As for being where Pogue wants the leaders to be, he said they are not perfect, but they are very solid.
“Heck, we are tickled about where we are from an attitude standpoint and from an athletic ability standpoint,” Pogue said. “Our team has meshed into a good, solid unit. We are constantly wanting to work and get better at it, like anyone would. We just feel like we are on schedule all the way around.”
Pogue said the team is made up of a lot of talented athletes with a solid attitude. He said the staff is great.
“When you have a combination of talent and good positive attitude and really good coaches, I think our team has an opportunity to play on a onship level,” Pogue said.
Pogue is coaching most of the special teams this year.
“We are going to try to use our special teams as a weapon and turn it into an advantage,” he said.
By emphasizing special teams in a positive light, Pogue said the players give them a chance to be good on special teams.
“So we are going to try to run some kicks back,” he said. “We are going to try to block kicks. I feel like we are going to be fun to watch on special teams.”
David Renfroe is the punter and the extra point kicker.
The key to a strong defense starts with the line.
Linemen include seniors Terrance Pope, Charles Corley, Jarred Draper, Deshun Sandridge and junior Marjarvin Chapman.
Pogue said the coaching staff is encouraged by Terrance Pope’s senior year prospects of having a great year.
“Charles Corley is another defensive end,” Pogue said. “Hopefully, he will have an outstanding year. He has had a great preseason camp.”
Players Draper, Sandridge and Chapman give the defensive line some depth, Pogue said.
“They have all got some experience and we feel like it is a strength,” Pogue added. “We are a little bit inexperienced at linebacker.”
Marvin Burdette is middle linebacker and David Conner was moved to linebacker from where he played in the secondary last year.
“We moved him (Conner) up because he has a lot of abilities and he has great speed,” Pogue said.
The two outside linebackers are Justin Carothers and Josh Shipp.
“They are new as far as experience playing there, but they have done a great job through the spring,” Pogue said. “We feel like they are going to be fine.”
In the secondary, four seniors are back: Tigg Barksdale at free safety, Montez Austin, Chris Butler and Bud Barksdale at cornerback.
“All of those guys have played and we feel like that is a strength, too,” Pogue said.
“I really feel like our defense has a chance to be really, really good,” Pogue continued. “We have some experience. We have some good ability there. We are really excited about what we have got on defense.”
Renfroe is running the first team quarterback, according to Pogue. Renfroe replaced two-year starting quarter Leroy Diggs. Renfroe saw some quality time at quarterback last season.
Renfroe logged 13 pass completions last year for 285 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. He was sacked twice.
Alternating at running back after Tigg Barksdale are fullback Reuben Corley, and running backs Justin Market and Nicholas Parker.
Pogue said this is because Barksdale sees some major time on defense.
“Our offensive line we feel good about,” Pogue said.
At center is Jonathan Wilson, and other linemen are Wagner, Quinn Sanford, Don Blevins and Cordarrius “Big D” McMurry.
“We like our tight end David Baker,” Pogue said.
According to Pogue, the new Tiger offense will be incorporating more receivers than have been seen in the past.
Xavier Lee, called “The X Factor or X” by his teammates has done an outstanding job of developing into a quality threat there, according to Pogue.
“We have some other guys but we are excited about our offense,” he said. “We haven’t played a game yet, but at the time same time, we feel going against our defense every day is about as good a test as we can get.”
The best word Pogue could use to describe the upcoming schedule was “tough.”
“We don’t know a lot about Warren Central,” he said. “We haven’t played them. Traditionally, they are a solid good 5A football team. Anytime you play a first football game, there are a lot of concerns there.”
About the following week’s game with rival Clarksdale, Pogue said, “Everybody knows about that. They are going to be an excellent team. There will be a big challenge there.”
On The Panolian’s website, www.panolian.com, some Clarksdale fans have taken advantage of the visitor comment section and have predicted this year’s Clarksdale team will be the one to end South Panola’s win streak.
The last time South Panola lost to Clarksdale was in 2001. There have been some very close games in those five years under Woods, like last year, when South Panola only won by six points, 19-13, thanks in part to a punt returned for a touchdown by Bud Barksdale.
Clarksdale is ranked No. 2 in the preseason poll by The Clarion-Ledger. They lost in the state championship last year to Wayne County, who came in the No. 3 spot in the poll.
“When we get into division, Olive Branch, Tupelo, Starkville, all those teams are there every year, Pogue said. “There are some tough teams out there. We try to be ready every week.”
Pogue said the confidence of the team was good, but he did not think they are overconfident.
“They are excited about what we are doing on offense,” he said. “We have a lot of confidence in our defense.”
South Panola outscored opponents 456 to 141 last year.
“The biggest thing is we have a lot of seniors who have played a lot and a lot of juniors who have played a lot,” he said. “They have been there before. Our confidence is solid at this point. We believe we can be the team to compete for a championship.”
South Panola opens the season ranked No. 1 in the Clarion-Ledger preseason poll. The Tigers will take on Warren Central in the Red Carpet Bowl Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Vicksburg.