NP Cougars

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Cougars put up good fight against Ripley

By Brad Greer

For nearly 21 minutes of football, North Panola had the homestanding Ripley Tigers right where they wanted them. The rugged Cougar defense had stymied the Tiger offense for most of the first half while holding a 6-0 lead.

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But as quick as a hiccup, the Tigers erupted for three touchdowns in the last three minutes of the second quarter to take a 20-6 halftime lead in route to a 35-6 win over the Cougars in the first ever meeting between the two schools Friday night in Ripley.

Ripley improved to 2-0 on the season while North Panola evened their record to 1-1.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Cougars struck first with 3:35 remaining before intermission when Bruce Wilbourn took a reverse handoff from Vernon Lewis and scampered 14 yards for a touchdown. Quin Ellis’ two-point conversion pass failed to make the score 6-0.

 The drive was kept alive two plays earlier when Ellis hooked up with Ricky Hunt for a 23-yard pass completion   on 3rd- and 6 from the Tiger 35. The 14-play 88-yard drive began after Trey Tucker picked off a Will Wallis pass on the North Panola 12.

Ripley responded with a lighting-quick touchdown drive that covered 53 yards in only three plays in less than a minute. Wallis found Tyler Vuncannon on a 41-yard scoring strike as two Cougar defenders fell down on the play. Wallis added the PAT on make the score 7-6 with 2:34 left in the period.

Following one of three turnovers by North Panola on the night, the Tigers struck again by going 59 yards on three plays in 22 seconds, capped off by a 23-yard run from Ben Wallis with younger brother Will Wallis adding the point after attempt.

Ripley then got the ball back after recovering the onside kick with 51 seconds left in the half. Starting on their on 49, Ben Wallis connected on pass plays in 20, 9 and 21 yards down to the North Panola two where Damone McDonald blasted in for the touchdown

 “We felt like we hurt ourselves more than they actually did,” said North Panola head coach Clifton Davis, III. “We were in control of the first half until we turned the ball over. We did cover the onside kick. Then we fumbled the series before that and it led to their second touchdown.

“But in our defense, I feel like we’re making strides and this was a good test for us. Ripley played for the North Mississippi championship last season so they are a good team,” Davis added.

North Panola took the second half kickoff and promptly drove to the Tiger four on 15 plays but turned the ball over on downs when Wilbourn was stuffed on a fourth and 2 from the Ripley four. The failed scoring opportunity seemed to take the wind out of the Cougars’ sail as they never threatened again on the night.

The Tigers put the game away, driving 96 yards on 12 plays capped off by a six-yard touchdown run by Jaquise Cook with 9:54 left in the game for a 26-6 lead.

Ripley tacked on a safety and a late touchdown with 1:05 left to close out the scoring.

North Panola had 101 yards rushing and 109 yards passing for 210 yards on the evening. Lewis led the Cougar ground attack with 76 yards on 20 carries while Rodregus Salter followed with 11 totes for 17 carries.

Wilbourn, a Southern Mississippi commitment, turned in another solid night with six catches for 61 yards while Ricky Hunt snagged three passes for 45 yards. Roderick Frost added one catch for three yards. Ellis completed 11-of-20 passes for 109 yards and one interception. The Cougars were penalized seven times for 45 yards while turning over the ball three times.

Ripley meanwhile racked up 391 yards of offense on 258 yards rushing and 133 yards through the air.

“We saw some good things tonight from our kids. Our defense played great in the first half, but got worn down in the second half. I felt like we threw the ball well at times but had some dropped passes that hurt us. We’ve just got to work harder and get ready for district play in two weeks,” said Davis.

North Panola hosts Lafayette Co. in the home opener Friday night at 7 p.m.