NP Football

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2008

Cougars look to spoil Oxford homecoming

By Myra Bean

North Panola and Oxford have a couple of things in common.

First, both come into tonight’s game with a 4-2 overall record.

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Second, both have lost to Lafayette County, scoring seven points or less.

That is about where the commonality ends.

Class 4A Oxford Eagles will host the class 3A North Panola Cougars in homecoming tonight, starting with a 7 p.m. Kickoff.

Last week, North Panola spoiled Lewisburg’s homecoming with a 30-7 blow. Cougar head coach Clifton Davis Jr. hopes to do the same to Oxford, who is coming off a 28-14 win over Indianola-Gentry.

The Cougars (3-0 district) share the lead in 3-3A with Tunica Rosa Fort (4-2, 2-0). Oxford is fourth in 2-4A behind Cleveland, Lafayette and Clarksdale. Oxford lost to Cleveland 21-15 on September 26.

With the two losses, talk has Oxford “down” this year in its football program.

“Don’t listen to what everyone says,” Davis said. “Oxford is still Oxford. They are a perennial power.”

Though they are not ranked this year, in years past Oxford was a stable on the Clarion-Ledger Super 10 poll. Therefore, Davis refuses to take this Charger team for granted.

“Oxford is still playing good football,” he said. “They lost to some good football teams in Cleveland and Lafayette. Cleveland is undefeated in its district. They are still the same team but year after year that are in the playoffs. They are still up. We are not going over there in awe of them either. They are a good football team and we are going over there to play.”

Oxford plays behind quarterback Cameron Billups who threw for three of the four touchdowns last week and ran in the fourth score. Receiving for the Chargers were Deante Smith and Derrick Williams.

Oxford always has a strong passing game, a good running game and is well-coached, according to Davis. Charger head coach Johnny Hill will dress out around 70 athletes.

“We will be at a disadvantage there as far as that is concerned,” Davis said.

Against Lafayette County a couple of weeks ago, North Panola was plagued with mental as well as physical mistakes that ended up in a 47-6 loss. Turnovers, dropped balls and weak pass protection were a few mistakes the Cougar team had to overcome. In the last three district wins, Davis said the team has started to come along as a football team and started to gel.

“We are not making as many mistakes as we made in the past,” he said. “That is what it will take in order for us to compete. We will have to have a balanced attack and not make any mistakes over there. And if they happen to make any mistakes, we have to capitalize on them. It will come down to us stopping the passing game, which has been their strong suit over the years, and minimize our mistakes.”

Defensively, Oxford is big up front and has a tough four-man front, Davis said.

“We are going to have our hands full and we know it. We just have to go over there and do what we do.”

Against Lewisburg last Friday that was the best defensive stand they made this year Davis said.

“We knew Lewisburg wanted to run the football. We wanted to make them one dimensional. We took the run away from them for the most part and forced them to do something they didn’t really want to do,” Davis said.

Davis was happy with the job the Cougar defense did with the Lewisburg offensive line.

“We used the quickness to our advantage,” he said. “The linebackers did a good job of reading the key. Cortez Hibbler did a good job at the middle linebacker. T (Tyrus) Mack is T Mack. He plays with abandon at the outside linebacker and did an exceptional job.”

The team followed his game plan and everything pretty much worked out the way the Cougars had practiced, according to Davis.

“We are just going to have to build on that. We know it is not a district game but it means as much to us because this would be a signature win for us. We have not had that signature win yet. To beat a team like Oxford would be a signature win,” Davis said.

Davis is concerned with the success the team has enjoyed so far, that the players will lose focus and not secure more wins as they did last year. The Cougars were 4-2 when Oxford visited Sardis last year. After the 72-40 loss to Oxford, the Cougars went 1-3 for the final four games of the season, losing to Independence and Senatobia and defeating Rosa Fort.

 “We don’t care who we play, just line up and go after them. We want to stay focused and finish off what we started. That’s our goal now, stay focused, finish off and keep everything in perspective.”

Key matchups in 3-3A tonight are Byhalia (0-6, 0-3) at Senatobia (2-4, 1-1); Rosa Fort (4-2, 2-0) at Holly Springs (2-4, 1-2); and Independence (2-4, 1-2) at Lewisburg (2-4, 1-1).