SP football v Southaven

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 24, 2008

SP to host improved district foe Southaven Chargers

By Angie Ledbetter

South Panola may be coming off an emotional roller coaster ride with that one-point win over Tupelo last Friday, but tonight is not the night to let defenses down.

The Southaven Chargers come to town with a 6-2 overall, 2-2 district record, ranked third in the district, behind Olive Branch and Tupelo, who have identical records of 6-2, 3-1.

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Southaven is a team that has experienced both ends of the spectrum in its football program. They know what it’s like to make the playoffs but they also know what it’s like to have losing season after losing season.

That changed three years ago when Ed Rich took over the program. This past year Rich retired as the Southaven baseball coach and took on football full time.

The Chargers are reaping the benefits of having his attention as did the baseball team, whom he led to state championships.

It was wet and soggy last year when South Panola traveled to Southaven and came away with a 27-14 victory. At that point in the season, that was only the third team to score that many points against the Tigers. Last year Southaven finished the season 5-6. Southaven was also one of the teams which contributed to South Panola’s 5-6 season in 2001 with a 28-14 win October 26. It was said Southaven had made it their goal that year to beat South Panola. It was said it was written all over the locker room. Whatever it took that year, they met that goal.

That was the last year South Panola did not make the playoffs and play for a state championship. Now, a steadily improving Southaven team is making its move in 1-5A once again.

In addition to watching for Southaven, the Tigers will be recognizing the 19 senior football players, five cheerleaders and band members in the final home game of the regular season.

“They were juniors when I got here,” Tiger head coach Lance Pogue said. “They are all good kids with great character and do a good job with their school work. It’s tough when you get toward the end and you lose a bunch of guys that you have gotten close to. That’s part of it but we still have a lot of football left. It will be a special time for them. Hopefully we’ll have some more home games with the playoffs and they’ll get to experience that again. You know when it gets to senior night, it’s getting close to the end but hope we can push this thing back for awhile.”

It will be a showdown in region 1-5A between the nationally ranked Tigers (8-0, 4-0) who are coming off a road victory over Tupelo last Friday night and the Chargers, also coming off a big road victory over Starkville that went into double overtime. The Chargers won the battle 20-14.

The Tigers are ranked No. 9 in the nation by Rivals.com, No. 12 by USA Today and No. 1 in the state by The Clarion-Ledger, with an 83-game win streak, the longest active win streak and third longest in history.

Southaven opened its season against Kossuth on August 29 with a 35-14 win. The following week they won 35-15 over Independence, beat Holly Springs 50-7 the next week, and Frayser 51-6 on September 19.

The Chargers will be under the leadership of quarterback No. 5 Tyler Brent. One key player to look for will be  running back No. 22 Calvin Malone.

The Chargers have been the talk of the division since starting district action on September 24 and giving Olive Branch a run for its money. Olive Branch won the game 15-10 but Southaven led until the end of the game.

The Chargers scored on a 22-yard field goal in the second quarter. In the third, Olive Branch scored with a 37-yard field goal but Southaven answered with a 49-yard touchdown to take the lead 10-3 at the end of the third.

Olive Branch took control in the fourth, scoring on a six-yard touchdown but missed the PAT. The winning score came with 5:45 left in the game by Olive Branch on a 12-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed.

That game put a target on Southaven’s back, as the Chargers were quietly taking down opponents.

The following week, they defeated Columbus 28-14 on the road but fell to Tupelo 41-14 on October 10.

The history between the Tigers and the Chargers goes back for several years, giving the Tigers the advantage with victories. Since 2004 the Tigers have outscored the Chargers 150-36.

“Southaven is a good team and I have a lot of respect for them,” said Pogue. “They present some problems for us especially defensively. They do a lot of things offensively you have to get lined up to also.

“Southaven had every shot in the world to win the game against Olive Branch and played them down to the wire,” Pogue continued. “They had a lot of turnovers a couple weeks ago against Tupelo and the game got away. They beat Starkville in overtime. Anytime you can go to Starkville and win, that’s a plus.”

Pogue said he knows Starkville is struggling some but to get a win in Starkville  means a team is good.

“Right now Southaven is right in the middle of the playoff hunt. Again, we are going to get their best shot. Your concern is after another tough game you coming back and getting refocused and restructured.”

Pogue said that is the Tigers’ challenge this week. He said the team is proud to be playing at home with the home crowd.

“It seems like all of the big games lately have been on the road,” Pogue said.

With Friday night’s win, the Tigers clinched a playoff spot and are in sole control of the division.

“When you win at Olive branch and at Tupelo, you should feel good about things. But I say this again, we are not anywhere close to what I think we can be.

“We have been a sort of mistake-free team but we made some the other night but I am proud of the win,” Pogue continued. “This week we are going to try and correct those things and sharpen up a little bit.”

Tickets for the game are $5 for general admission and $15 for any reserve seats. The ticket booth opens at 5:45 p.m.

Football, cheerleader and ROTC seniors will be recognized during pregame at 6:40 p.m. Band seniors will be recognized at halftime.

Kickoff is 7 p.m.