SP v Madison Central

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 2, 2008

South Panola wins its seventh straight North Half Championship with a 24-21 score over Madison Central, battling rain and injuries. The Tigers will meet familiar foe Meridian for its sixth straight state championship trophy. The Tigers already own seven state championship trophies out of 10 trips to the “Big House.” The Panolian photo by Angie Ledbetter

Jackson Bound!!!

2008 North Half 5A Champions – South Panola Tigers

Tigers reign in north

By Angie Ledbetter

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Despite losing starters Nicholas Parker and David Conner to injury Friday night, the South Panola Tigers held off a determined Madison Central Jaguar team, 24-21, to advance to the 5A State Championships for the seventh straight time.

The Tigers battled  rain, a very loud “welcoming crowd” of Jaguar fans, and,  for the first time this season, injuries before a standing-room-only crowd estimated at over 8,000 fans.

The Tigers are chasing a sixth consecutive 5A State Championship title and keeping alive the nation’s longest winning streak, now at 89 games.

Leading 10-0 at halftime, the Tigers faced a rejuvenated Jaguar team to start the second half. Madison Central marched the ball down the field and scored on a seven-yard pass to Mike Johnson with 10:09 to go in the third quarter. With the PAT, the Tiger lead was cut 10-7.

On the Tigers’ first possession of the third quarter, C.J. Jordan intercepted Tiger quarterback David Renfroe’s pass with 8:58 left in the quarter.

The Jaguars capitalized on a one-yard run by Johnson to take the lead 14-10.

Tiger JaPeri Mitchell intercepted a Jaguar quarterback Peyton Johnson pass and returned it 14 yards to the Jaguar’s 42. That set up a touchdown by Taylor Rotenberry on a six-yard pass from Renfroe with 2:47 left in the third quarter. With Renfroe’s PAT the Tigers took a 17-14 lead.

With 6:42 left in the game, Xavier Lee caught a 21-yard pass from Renfroe for a Tiger touchdown. The PAT was good to give the Tigers a 24-14 lead.

On the kickoff return, Tobias Singleton brought the ball back to the Tiger’s 38. The Tigers received a personal foul penalty and the ball was moved to the 23. With 5:17 left in the game, the Jaguars scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Johnson to Singleton. With the PAT the Jaguars pulled within three points, 24-21.

The Tigers drove the ball down to the Jaguar’s 31 and turned it over on downs after Carothers was stopped on 4th and one with 1:34 left in the game. The Jaguars were still fighting hard to win the game, but the Tigers never gave up.

The Jaguars started on their own 30 and took the ball to the 44. On fourth down and 10 from the Jaguar 44, Tiger defensive back LaReco Lee intercepted the Jaguar’s pass after it was tipped by linebacker Marvin Burdette. That play ended the Jaguar drive and the Tigers took a knee three times to earn their seventh straight North Half champ title and seventh straight trip to the 5A State Championship game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.

The Jaguars won the toss and deferred to the second half. The Tigers received the ball and started on their 20 but had to punt with 8:56 on the clock.

The Jaguars started on their own 16 and only got to their 20 after the Tiger defense stopped them. On third-down- and-six on their own 20, Tiger defensive end Devin Clark sacked Johnson, to force a punt with 7:57 on the clock. Clark sacked Johnson again on the next drive for the Jaguars. The Jaguars had the ball at the 50 when Johnson fumbled with Marvin Burdette recovering for the Tigers.

On the next play, Parker took the ball and five Jaguar defenders for 27 yards.

With 1:35 left in the first quarter, David Renfroe kicked a 29-yard field goal to put the Tigers on the scoreboard first for a 3-0 first quarter lead.

The Tigers struck early in the second quarter when Renfroe scored on a 16-yard run. With a Renfroe PAT, the Tigers were up 10-0 with 9:37 on the clock. That score remained until the half.

Workhorse running back Nicholas Parker did not return for the second half and Domonique Carothers and Qyendairs Griffin had the ball carrying honors.

Parker had 118 yards on 18 carries before he left the game. Carothers had 84 yards on 17 carries and Griffin had 26 yards on seven carries. Renfroe rounded out the rushing with 16 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.

Renfroe completed eight of 13 passes for 75 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Receiving the ball were Griffin, one reception for one yard; Parker, two for 11 yards; Lee, three for 41 yards and one touchdown; Anthony “Jet” Ladd, one for 16 yards; and Rotenberry, one for six yards and one touchdown.

Tiger head coach Lance Pogue was very complimentary of the Tiger team and how they kept their heads and fought back after being down.

“We’ve got heart and I knew they’d come back,” Pogue said. “I knew it was going to be a fight. We went up, got down, got back up and fought it off at the end. I’m proud of my guys.”

Pogue referred to all the smack talk that went on last week concerning the game.

“They talked in the paper all week and built it up, trying to get themselves ready. We didn’t do any talking. We just wanted to come play. We’re a good football team and so are they but we move on.”

Pogue said he was glad he had depth on the defense when Conner went down early in the game.

“I’m proud of our defense. Our number one defensive player, David Connor, went down early in the game with a sore hamstring. We played a rookie in there and we just kept fighting and grinding. We stopped their running game, got a few turnovers defensively, and got a lot more pressure on their quarterback than what they were used to this year. I thought we were more physical than they were.”

Parker went down and the Tigers had to go to the bench.

“Our running backs, Dominique Carothers and Quin Griffin, stepped up and made some plays.He (Carothers) did a great job. It was his time and he took advantage of it.”

Renfroe was another player who had to step up his game.

“When Parker went down, I just knew I had to step up,” he said.

“I didn’t play the best I could’ve but I did what I could. We knew we had a challenge in front of us but we took it and ran with it. We had to step up to take the lead. I did expect this kind of game.”

Renfroe said winning this battle left him with a great feeling.

“I have one more game left in my career. It’s coming down to the end and it’s sad, but I’m ready to come back and win that sixth straight one.”

On the receiving end of one of the biggest passes of the game from Renfroe was Lee.

“He threw it just right,” said Lee, referring to Renfroe’s pass.

Renfroe said Lee is one of the most amazing players in the state.

“When they caught that interception, we got back up,” Lee said. “When they took the lead, we had to get pumped back up. All of us were mad but the coaches kept telling us that we could do it. When Parker went out, then we had someone else to go in. They have somebody in every spot when anybody gets hurt. We have a good backfield.”

Lee did not see any surprises in the game but said they can thank the defense for the win.

“They did it tonight and it was all because of them that we won tonight,” he said.

Pogue told the team after the game that they could have folded when Madison went up 14-10.

“But you kept making plays and got some turnovers,” Pogue said. “You kept battling and kept fighting. I told you that they would never get it done in the Clarion-Ledger or on the news. That would never work. You got to play the game.  Great job for guys who filled in for Conner. I’m proud of you.

“Coaches, I’m proud of every single one of you for battling also,” Pogue added. “Now, we have one game left and we’ve got to get some guys back well and healthy. It’s going to be another tough game. We’re going to Jackson. I told you we were going to make two trips on the road south. We got one out of the way tonight.

“Now we have to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve got to run the ball physically, make some plays in the passing game, and keep driving on defense.”

The Tigers finished the game with 16 first downs and six penalties for 48 yards. They had two interception returns for 14 yards, three punt returns for 95 yards, three kickoff returns for 37 yards, and two sacks for 10 yards.

Time of possession for the Tigers was 30:17. They had 75 yards passing and 244 rushing for a total offense of 319.

The Jaguars had 12 first downs and four penalties for 40 yards. They had one interception return for 16 yards, five punt returns for 197 yards and five kickoff returns for 63 yards. Time of possession for the Jaguars was 17:43.They had 35 yards passing and 125 yards rushing for a total offense of 160.

Meanwhile, Meridian defeated Oak Grove 28-0. The Tigers will take on Meridian in the Class 5A State Campionship on Friday, December 5 at 7 p.m. at Veterans Memorial stadium.