SP North Half Champs
MHSAA 5A North State Champions
SOUTH PANOLA TIGERS
By Brad Greer
There has been countless number of amazing individual feats on years past on the hollowed grounds of the South Panola football field, but what Darius “Tig” Barksdale pulled off Friday night was truly remarkable.
The senior Dandy Dozen tailback rushed for 399 yards and three rushing touchdowns while returning an interception for another to lead the Tigers to a 43-28 victory over rival Olive Branch.The win gave the Tigers an unprecedented sixth straight North State 5A championship and a date with George County Friday night at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson for the Class 5A State Championship with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
The No. 3 nationally- ranked Tigers, (14-0) won their 74th consecutive game and 46th in a row at home. Meanwhile, the George County Rebels, (13-1) hammered Meridian 33-14 in the South State title game.
Barksdale, playing his last game before the home crowd, pushed his season rushing total to 2,574 yards, breaking the previous mark of 2,479 yards set by Kevin Jones in 1996.
Even after the accomplishment, Barksdale remained humble.
“I missed the first game when we played them and I really let my team down so I told them I will make up for it tonight. I just did what I had to do for us to win and I want to thank the offensive line for making the holes for me and I thank God for all of my teammates,” said Barksdale.
After Olive Brach jumped to a 10-0 first quarter lead on a 29-yard field goal by Jeremiah Revord and a 16-yard touchdown pass from Clint Wilson to Thad Wooten, Barksdale went to work by rambling 53 yards for his first touchdown of the night with David Renfroe adding the PAT for a 10-7 Conquistador lead.
Olive Branch expanded their lead to 13-7 on a 32-yard field goal by Revord with 1:31 remaining before intermission to cap off a 13-play 51-yard drive. Wilson hit passes of 23 yards to Keshun Cowan and 31 yards to Warren Lewis that keyed the drive.
But in the closing minute, South Panola drove 87 yards in a lighting-quick seven plays to take a 14-13 halftime lead when Renfroe found a wide-open Justin Market on a 16-yard scoring play with 17 seconds left. Renfroe tacked on the extra point attempt.
“I’m just so proud of all the guys on our team, but I’ve got to give credit to Olive Branch. They had a great game plan and they played us hard the whole game,” said South Panola head coach Lance Pogue. “We got down early but we didn’t panic. But we’ve done that all year. We came back in the second half and took control of the game and hit some big plays and Tig had an unbelievable game.”
South Panola held Olive Branch to – 5 yards rushing in the first half and 12 yards total on the night. The Tigers rolled up 408 yards on the ground and 496 total yards in the game. Renfroe was 6-of-8 for 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns. David Baker hauled in three passes for 40 yards while Xavier Lee caught a pair of passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. The Quistadores were flagged four times for 20 yards while South Panola was penalized 12 times for 118 yards.
Olive Branch, (11-3) recaptured the lead on their initial possession of the second half when the Tiger’s Bud Barksdale fumbled the opening kickoff on his own 19. Two plays later, Wilson went untouched 17 yards for the score for a 19-14 lead after the two-point conversion failed.
South Panola took the lead for good at 22-19 on the next series when Barksdale rambled 82 yards for his second touchdown on the night. Renfroe then ran in for the two point conversion.
Barksdale brought the standing-room crowd of 8,000 to their feet when he picked off a Wilson pass and raced 45 yards with 9:46 left in the third quarter. Olive Branch picked up two points the easy way on a safety when a bad snap went over Renfroe’s head and out of the endzone for a 29-21 lead.
Barksdale added his last touchdown on the final play of the third quarter on a 40- yard run for a 36-21 lead after Renfroe ran in for the two-point conversion. South Panola tacked on their last touchdown with 1:17 left in the game when Renfroe hooked up with Baker on a four-yard scoring toss.
Wilson connected with Wooten for 21 yards with 17 seconds left in the game to close out the scoring.