SP vs Olive Branch

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2008

Olive Branch will be facing this high octane South Panola offense including (left to right) Cody Alford, Jonathan Hardin, Don Blevins and back) David Renfroe. The Panolian photo by Andy Young

Comcast to televise South Panola/Olive Branch clash tonight

By Angie Ledbetter

The clash between the nationally-ranked South Panola Tigers (5-0) with their 80 game winning streak and the longest in the nation and the Olive Branch Conquistadors (4-1) was hot enough to earn placement in the newly released “Y’all vs. Us” book.

When South Panola is mentioned, inevitably the past five years of competition between these teams arise in the conversation. Such as in the near win by Olive Branch in 2006 when South Panola was down at halftime 7-6 and won 12-7.

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Tonight the two teams will meet on the new artificial surface of newly named Leslie Pool Field where kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and will be aired live by Comcast Cable on channel 6.

For a game that has been talked about since the beginning of the season from Desoto to Hancock Counties, the Tigers and the Conquistadors both arrive in this huge rivalry 1-0 in the 5A region.

The Tigers are ranked 10th in the nation by Rivals.com and the Conquistadors are ranked 71st. USA Today ranks the Tigers No. 14.

When it comes to these teams, the rivalry goes back to 1972 when the Tigers won 29-0. Since then, the Tigers lead the series 23-9.  The last time the Conquistadors defeated the Tigers was in 2000 with a one point victory 17-16. That win was 10 years in the making since the closest win was in 1990, 44-22.

From 1991-1998 the teams did not play each other. From 1984 – 1988 the Conquistadors defeated South Panola every year.

For the last three years, both teams have played for the right to go to Jackson to play in the 5A State Championship game. They have faced each other twice each year with the Tigers coming out on top each time, going on to win the 5A State Championship games.

A new book released in August of this year entitled “Y’all vs US” features 15 of the greatest high school rivalries from the state of Mississippi. One of the 15 rivalries highlighted included the South Panola-Olive branch series.

While the Tigers remain undefeated, the Conquistadors had to bear the brunt of defeat.

The  Conquistadors opened their season against Pahokee, Fla. on August 30 in Miami and pulled off a come-from-behind 48-47 victory. The following week, they lost to Memphis University School, 29-22. The last three games they’ve won by defeating Memphis Treadwill 61-20, Memphis Sheffield 51-6 and Southaven 15-10.  

“It’s going to be a big time atmosphere on the road up there,” said head coach Lance Pogue. “Olive Branch has a lot of explosive athletes with a lot of speed and athletic ability.

“They have a seasoned quarterback who started against us two games last year,” Pogue continued. “They have a big offensive line. One recruiting analyst said they were one of the best in the country. They’re getting a lot of attention.”

To keep the players focused and not jump ahead to this game Pogue said he explained to them how important each game was and they cannot over look anyone.

“I thought they did a good job of that the other night with Horn Lake after playing Apopka,” he said. “It’s just human nature in the back of your mind to look ahead but I think we have enough senior leadership to understand that we need to stay focused and stay on track. I’m proud that we’ve been able to do that.”

Pogue thinks the Tigers are ready for Olive Branch.

“We’re in good shape on how we’ve progressed and improved from day to day and week to week. Some of those guys I mentioned earlier in the year have grown up a lot. Some of the younger guys who haven’t played a lot have gotten some experience now. I’m well pleased with the progress we’ve made to get to the mid point of the season.”

All of the games are important and big, according to Pogue, because everybody is playing for playoff position.

“This is just another big game on the schedule and it happens to be Olive Branch.”

Last week Olive Branch struggled against Southaven and were down at one time 10-3.

Pogue was not really surprised as he has noticed the improvement of Southaven.

“It’s a county rivalry up there,” Pogue said. “Olive Branch has had the upper hand through the years on some of those folks and they really gear up for Olive Branch and I understand that.”

In order to come out with a win, Pogue said the team will have to give a “great effort.

“We’re going to have to play with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of emotion,” he said. “What people don’t realize that in big games, the turnover margin is very big.  Hopefully, defensively, we can keep them from getting the big plays.”

Tickets for the game will be sold at the South Panola District office from 8 a.m. until 1p.m. Today.

The gates at Olive Branch will open at 4:30 p.m.

Directions: Take I-55 North to Church Road. Take a right onto Church Road until it dead ends at Highway 305. Take a left and go under the overpass. Then turn to the school is to the right. Follow the signs.