SP v Horn Lake

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2008

Tigers to host improved Eagle team in district opener

By Angie Ledbetter

The undefeated South Panola Tigers, who own the longest winning streak in the nation at 79, will open district action tonight hosting the Horn Lake Eagles.

Both teams are coming off big wins from last week. The Tigers (4-0) defeated Apopka, Fla. and the Eagles (3-1) defeated Ripley 28-21.

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The Eagles started their season by defeating Byhalia 33-6 on August 29. They lost to Oxford 24-21 the second week. On September 12, they beat Westwood out of Memphis.

These two teams are no strangers to each other.  Since 2003, the Eagles have only scored 33 points while the Tigers put up 197.

“When the division games start, you can’t afford not to be ready and get in a hole early,” said head Coach Lance Pogue. “We’re excited to be playing at home again. With all of the new field and stuff and the exciting fans, our kids really enjoy playing at home.”

The Tigers have had to put that win over Apopka aside and Concentrate on a team which could conceivably spoil their chances of a trip to the state championship.

“It can be easy to over look this team.” said Pogue. “Our goal is to make our way back to the championship game like everybody’s.

“We were so emotionally charged last week that you worry about letting your guard down,” Pogue continued. “I think we have enough senior leadership and our seniors will help us with that.”

Pogue describes Horn Lake as a solid team.

“They’re not very flashy offensively unlike Apopka,” he said. “They will be a lot more conditioned and a little bit more generic offensively.  Other words, they don’t do a whole lot.”

Second year Eagle head coach John Cooley is trying to concentrate on a few things and be as good as they can and not beat themselves, according to Pogue. He will not have to deal with as much deception and tricks  as Apopka bought.    

He coached a long time in Memphis and now he is trying to rebuild the Horn Lake program.

“He had to start from scratch last year but you can see that they’re making some positives strides,” Pogue said. “I don’t think they are where he wants them to be right now. I think that it’s a program that is trying to rebuild and get a solid foundation.”

Cooley will be relying on the leadership of his senior quarterback Taylor Grace, 6-0,155 pounds and Bakari Trotter, a 6-2, 155 pound sophomore wide receiver.

According to Pogue, Trotter is a quality player whom they throw the ball to a lot.

Another key player to look out for will be Jeffrey Carlyle, a 6-1, 180 sophomore running back. In last week’s game, he scored on runs of five and 55 yards.

Pogue does think the team is anywhere close to where it can be as a team. He cited a need for more improvement but glad everyone is healthy.

“We’re no where near tapping what potential that we do have,” Pogue said. “That’s fun for me because I can go back to practice and try to continue to reach that goal of being the best team we can be. There are so many areas that we can continue to improve on. If we do that, hopefully we can get toward the playoffs in November and be playing our best ball.”

Pogue said he is absolutely pleased with the overall improvement that the younger players have made each week

“I don’t think there would have been a way we could have beat Apopka in the first game of the year,” he said. “We’ve made so much improvement in the last three weeks with some of the offensive lineman and some of our defensive backs. They’ve grown, matured and now have a little season under their belt. I think we’re so much better at this stage than we were when we went to Vicksburg. We’ve improved each week and that is what you want to see as a coach.”

Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Robert H. Dunlap Stadium and broadcast on FM 100.5 starting with the pregame show with Pogue at 7 p.m.