NP Cougars

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cougars roll to 3-0 district record

By Brad Greer

Don’t look now but here come the North Panola Cougars.

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Despite being penalized 22 times for 185 yards, North Panola rode the arm and feet of freshman quarterback Quin Ellis to a 42-14 homecoming beatdown of Lewisburg in front of an overflow crowd Friday night in Sardis.

With the win, the Cougars (4-2 overall, 3-0 district) moved into a first place tie with Senatobia in the Region 3-3A standings while Lewisburg fell to 1-5 and 0-3 in district play.

Ellis ran for a pair of touchdowns and passed for two more while Bruce Wilbourn found the end zone three times on the night.

The game saw both teams flagged a combined 33 times for 280 yards while taking over three hours to play. Ellis rushed 11 times for 50 yards while completing 5-of-13 passing for 107 yards.

Wilbourn meanwhile accounted for 237 all-purpose yards including three catches for 57 yards and 118 rushing on 15 carries to go along with 62 yards in punt returns.

Even in victory, head coach Clifton Davis Jr. was not pleased with his team’s performance.

“We were not focused tonight for some reason,” Davis said. “We took this team for granted no matter how much you tell these kids not to underestimate any team. They saw where Byhalia beat them (Lewisburg) and we beat Byhalia so they figured it would be easy, but it does not work like that.

“This was the sloppiest game we’ve played all year by far,” Davis continued. “We had too many penalties and we just weren’t on the same page on offense tonight like we have been the last few games. We’ve got to get better and we will.”

Defense played a big part in the game for North Panola as they held the Patriots to 166 total yards with 132 of those coming in the first quarter alone. The Cougars forced five turnovers in the game giving them 11 in the last two contests. It also marked the third straight game the defense has held the opposition to under 200 yards total offense.

On the game’s opening kickoff, Roderick Frost recovered a Patrick Rivers fumble that set up North Panola’s first touchdown as Wilbourn raced untouched 28 yards then ran in the two-point conversion attempt for a 8-0 lead just 17 seconds into the game.

Lewisburg answered right back, taking the ensuing kickoff and going 76 yards in 10 plays capped off by a 15-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Greenwood to Dylan Castoria.

Chad Hunter then connected with Quinton McCain for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 8-8 with 8:57 left in the first quarter. It would be the last time the Patriots would see the endzone until Tavius Johnson’s nine-yard TD run with 47 seconds left in the game.

Following a Darius Loveberry fumble recovery on the Patriot 40, North Panola took the lead for good as Ellis hooked up with  Wilbourn for a 40-yard scoring strike for a 16-8 lead after Wilbourn ran in the two- point conversion.

North Panola padded the lead 22-8 with 4:58 left in the half on a 33-yard run around left end by Ellis. The drive started on the Patriot 33 after Wilbourn’s punt return for a touchdown was erased on a clipping call.

The Cougars added the final touchdown of the half on Ellis’ 12-yard TD run with 3:21 left in the half. This came after a Randy House interception of a Greenwood pass started the drive on the Lewisburg 25-yard line. House also caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Ellis late in the third quarter for North Panola’s last score.

North Panola racked up 200 yards rushing and 107 passing for 307 yards total offense on the night while holding Lewisburg to 62 yards on the ground and 104 yards in the air with 87 of those coming in the first quarter alone. Frost carried one time for 33 yards and caught a pass for 10 yards.

Tyrus Mack set up the Cougars first score of the second half after recovering a Johnson fumble on the Patriot eight-yard line. Wilbourn added his last touchdown on an 11-yard scamper with 2:03 left in the third quarter for a 34-8 lead. Brandon Williams also recovered a fumble while Templeton Hardy registered four tackles-for-loss to lead the defensive charge.

“Our coaches had a game plan tonight and we just did what we were told to do,” said senior cornerback Trey Tucker. “We are just blessed to have a great coaching staff that cares about us. Lewisburg did a few things different than Byhalia did but we adjusted to it but like I said that goes back to good coaching and getting prepared. We’ve got to work on some things defensively next week in practice but overall I think we did pretty well.”

North Panola hosts Oxford Friday night in its last non-district contest of the season. Oxford hammered Indianola Gentry 38-9 last week. Kickoff is 7 p.m.