SP Tiger Football

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 2, 2007

Tigers and Yellowjackets vie for district championship

By Myra Bean

In what is expected to be a hard-hitting, physical, intense matchup, South Panola will host Starkville in a 1-5A gridiron contest.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

South Panola head coach Lance Pogue expects a “typical South Panola/Starkville” game.

The teams will be fighting for the district title tonight when the No. 3 nationally-ranked Tigers take on the Yellowjackets.

The Tigers will be playing to take their longest national active win streak to 70 when the Yellowjackets arrive for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

The two teams are no strangers. In past years when speaking of the two toughest teams in 1-5A, Starkville and South Panola topped the list. Then in recent years, upstart Olive Branch shoved Starkville to the back burner until last week. Starkville shoved back and came out top dog.

Starkville took the then No. 2 Olive Branch to a 14-7 victory. Olive Branch dropped out of the poll following their second loss of the season and to an unranked team.

Pogue said for whatever reason, Starkville has “come on lately.”

“I think it was more of Starkville getting better than Olive Branch not playing well,” he said.

Starkville first flexed its muscle this season when they downed 5A state runner up Meridian 38-19 on September 7.

After opening up the season with a one point win over Louisville and then Meridian, Starkville lost the next two games to 4A top contender West Point and then 4A state champion Wayne County to round out the non-conference season.

Starkville’s only district loss was to Tupelo 38-35 on October 5.

Starkville defeated Horn Lake and Southaven before taking out Olive Branch last week to give them a 6-3 overall, 4-1 district record.

Starkville is led by quarterback Brad Henderson and running back Patrick Shed who has 1,051 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.

The game has excitement potential as the Tigers know how good of a team Olive Branch put on the field this season. The Tigers defeated Olive Branch 17-3 and had to work without Dandy Dozen running back Darius “Tig” Barksdale who has 1,424 rushing yards on the season on 161 carries and 17 touchdowns.

Barksdale, along with Nicholas Parker and Justin Market, are expected to carry the Tiger running game with some help from Mario Nash when needed.

Parker has 685 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Market has 328 yards and seven touchdowns.

Establishing a run game against Starkville will be one of the keys to a Tiger victory tonight, Pogue said.

“But the number one key will be playing great defense,” Pogue added. “We have to stop their run and force a few turnovers. Their offense presents a problem. They have speed and agility.”

The Tigers are depending on the defensive line with defensive end Terrance Pope who has 34 tackles and six sacks, along with Deshun Sandridge, Charles Corley and Jarred Draper.

Leading the Tigers in tackles is linebacker Joshua Shipp who has 48 tackles and four and a half sacks, along with David Conner with 47 tackles and eight sacks.

Kickoff is 7 tonight on Tiger Field in Robert H. Dunlap Stadium. Pregame on WBLE 100.5 FM begins at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets will be sold from 8 a.m to 2 p.m. at the high school for $5. The ticket booth opens at 6 p.m.

“Fans need to come on like they did for Clarksdale and Olive Branch to support the team,” Pogue said.