SP v Apopka

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 19, 2008

Apopka brings speed; SP more physical

By Angie Ledbetter

The night has finally arrived when the South Panola Tigers take on the ranked Apopka Blue Darters from Florida in a battle that has been brewing for several months.

“This game has been the talk of the town ever since we announced it in the spring and it’s what everybody has been looking forward to with it being on television,” said Tiger head coach Lance Pogue. “The game is going to be played and all the hype and publicity is going to be there but we have to get ourselves prepared. The hype and the fun part of it will not get the job done.

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“We’re playing by far, no questions asked, the best team of the first three we’ve played and probably one of the best teams in the country,” Pogue continued. “We’re trying to stay grounded and take it one day at a time as far as our preparation is concerned. When game time comes Friday, all that stuff will take care of itself. You just have to get prepared no matter what the circumstances are.”

Apopka has great speed, according to Pogue. “They’re a typical Florida team that prides themselves on speed. That’s what stands out when you watch the film. We think we have got speed, too but they’re a little bit more speed-fastness oriented and we pride ourselves in speed but being a little bit more physical. It’s going to be two contrasts in style.”

Some in the media have turned attention on the quarterback for Apopka who has verbally committed to the University of Michigan. Jeremy Gallon, 5’9”, 165-pounds, is a second year quarterback.

Gallon is known for his speed, strength, skill and ranked at the very top of the list for the 2008 Varsity Gridiron Preseason All-Central Florida teams. He was named the 2007 All-Central Florida quarterback. He had 1,613 rushing yards on 219 carries, 23 rushing touchdowns and completed 56 of 88 of passes for 1,071 yards which included eight touchdowns with no interceptions. He totaled 2,684 yards last season.

Gallon helped turn the football program around at Apopka High school last year and has put them in national rankings, according to published reports.

Last week in Apopka’s game with Freedom, Gallon had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and touchdowns of 25-and a 12-yards. He finished the game with 138 yards on 27 carries.

“He’s a great athlete and fine player,” Pogue said. “He’s not a quarterback for the college level but he’ll be more of a receiver or defensive back. He has great speed and he is dangerous.  You’re not going to stop a guy like him, he is too talented but we’ve got to do a good job of controlling him and not let him have big play after big play on us. They’ll play him at quarterback, put him out at receiver and different places. He is a guy that you have to account for.”

Pogue thinks Gallon is probably what makes Apopka’s offense tick but he said they have other weapons, too.

“I think he is the focal point,” Pouge added.

Another key player will be 5’11”, 210-pound linebacker Pooh Bear Mars. He logged 154 tackles last season, seven for loss yards.

“He is a linebacker who is going to be another highly recruited guy on defense,” Pogue said.  “He is not a typical linebacker like you see in the state of Mississippi.  He isn’t a real heavy guy but has a lot of speed and runs around all over the field. He is a big playmaker on defense, too. They’ve got good players.”

Caleb Nelson, 6’0”, 175-pound quarterback/wide receiver/safety, is another player to watch. Last week he had an 18 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and a 20 yard touchdown. He had three receptions for 70 yards with one touchdown.

Two running backs are Tom Smith and Travelle Davis. Davis had 12 carries for 102 yards in last week’s game.

In the last two games Apopka played, they out scored opponents 90-35. South Panola has out scored opponents 101-8 in their first three games.

“The style of play down there in Florida is a little bit different than the style in Mississippi,” Pogue said. “They try to make a lot of things happen with their speed. We like our speed but at the same time we pride ourselves in being a little bit tougher and a little bit more physical at the line of scrimmage and I hope we can use that to our advantage.”

Apopka Head Coach Rick Darlington responded, “Yea, but we haven’t played the Tigers. They probably don’t give up 90 points a season.”

The South Panola players are excited Pouge said but explained, “They are but they understand because they’ve had a sneak preview of some of their film so they understand the challenge ahead and they understand that we’ve got a big job in practice this week just getting our game plan down and getting as prepared as we can possibly be,” Pogue said.

The game will be played on the new turf for the second time only by the Tigers. The Blue Darters have only played on turf twice, once last year and once the year before at opponents’ fields.

There is not much comparison between this team and Olive Branch, according to Pogue.

“Totally different style and we don’t see what they do in the state very much. We’ve got our hands full from that aspect just because of stuff that we don’t ordinary see.”

Kickoff is 7 p.m. The game will be televised live on ESPNU. It will be broadcast on WBLE 100.5 FM with the pregame beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Tiger fans are asked to wear red to show support for the Tiger football team.