SP Football State Championship

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Meridian quarterback Tyler Russell got to know South Panola’s Devin Clark, (right) up close and personal Friday night. Also on the tackle right after the throw was Ortiss Robertson. The Panolian photo by Angie Ledbetter

Streak ends!

SP Tigers falls to Meridian in state championship overtime battle, 26-20

By Angie Ledbetter
and Brad Greer

  The 5A state championship game came down to overtime as South Panola fell for the first time in six years, 26-20 to Meridian.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The game was tied at 20 at the end of regulation after Meridian kicker Jett Miller missed a 30-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the game which could have won the game for Meridian.

In overtime, Meridian scored in two plays on a three yard run by James Barnett.

When South Panola got its chance from the 10, quarterback David Renfroe’s pass to Taylor Rotenberry fell short on first down. On second down, running back Nick Parker picked up four rushing yards.

On third and fourth downs, the Meridian defensive players got through the Tiger line and chased Renfroe who took two sacks in a row to end his high school football career.

Before a standing crowd of 13,000 estimated fans and thousand more on Mississippi Public Broadcasting and internet streaming, the Meridian crowd went wild as after three tries, the Wildcats took a state championship game from the Tigers and snapped an 89-game winning streak.

The South Panola crowd and players watched in stunned surprise as reality sunk in that the Tigers did not comeback in this game as they had in others throughout the season. Some players fell to the ground in anguish as their senior seasons ended in a loss for the first time in six years.

The Wildcats captured their third state championship title, their first since 1990. They had played the Tigers in 2005 and 2006 losing both games.

The Wildcats won the toss and deferred to the second half. On the opening play, Tiger senior linebacker David Conner returned it 13 yards, but the possession ended in a punt. The first quarter ended scoreless.

South Panola fumbled the ball with 10:28 left in the first half and Meridian got the ball on the Tiger 13 yard line. The Wildcats capitalized on a three-yard run Quardark Martin with 9:06 left.

South Panola punted the next possession away, but got it right back on the Meridian 25 after Meridian fumbled the punt with 6:35 left in the half. Using that breathe of fresh air, the Tigers went on to tie the game.

With 3:11 left in first half, Renfroe connected with wide receiver Xavier Lee for a seven-yard touchdown pass. With the PAT, the game was tied at seven at the half.

Meridian broke the tie in the third quarter. They got the opening kickoff and took it 69 yards in 13 plays to score on a seven yard pass from Russell to Marcus McQuarley. With the PAT, the Wildcats led 14-7 with 7:28 left in the quarter.

Both teams were making short kickoffs and South Panola received the ensuing kickoff on their own 33 yard line.

The Tigers moved the ball 33 yards on a pass from Renfroe to Lee to the Meridian 25. Nicholas Parker scored on a four-yard run with 5:32 left in the quarter.

The PAT was good by Renfroe to tie the game at 14.

South Panola attempted an onside kick which was ruled legal at first and then the officials had a meeting and changed the ruling. Meridian got the ball on their own  49 yard line.

Meridian retook the lead on a three-yard run by James Barnett. The PAT by Miller failed and the Wildcat lead stood 20-14 going into the fourth quarter.

It took the Tigers 14 plays, and 10:33 minutes to score on a three-yard pass from Renfroe to Rotenberry with 7:29 left in the game to tie the score at 20.

Renfroe’s PAT failed and the score stood tied at 20.

After Miller’s attempted field goal, the game went into overtime.

Head Coach Lance Pogue said his team played hard and gave it all they had.

“I’m proud of my guys,” he said. “We gave it all we had and carried it as far as we could. We wanted to win it but that’s the game of football and its part of it.

“I’m going to walk out of here with my head held high,” Pogue continued. “Our guys have nothing to be ashamed about. It’s tough when you lose but I give them a lot of credit. That’s just part of the game.”

Pogue complimented Meridian’s high-powered offense.

“We fought but they just did a good job,” he said. “Their quarterback is a great player and their receivers kept making plays. We just battled and battled and battled and came up short.”

Pogue said he thought the team could win it in overtime. The Tigers ran a bootleg on first down but did not score.

As for the 24 seniors, Pogue said they will have “outstanding futures” because they are good people.

“We’ve got a lot of seniors that are going to have the opportunity to go play college football,” he said.

“We had a great run. We’ll have to regroup and start over. We’ll have to keep playing hard to try to get back down here. I wouldn’t do anything different. We will be back again,” he said.

The Tigers finished the game with 13 first downs to the Wildcat’s 18. They had 111 rushing yards and David Renfroe was nine of 14 for 93 yards with two touchdowns to give the Tigers 204 total yards. The Wildcats had 86 rushing yards and Tyler Russell was 21 of 37 for 242 yards with one touchdown to give them 328 total yards.

Each team lost one fumble. The Tigers had three penalties for 15 yards and the Wildcats had six for 50. Both teams punted three times.

Nicholas Parker was the leader on the offense. He rushed the ball 127 yards on 34 carries with one touchdown. Xavier Lee had six catches for 47 yards with one touchdown. Taylor Rotenberry had one touchdown.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior David Conner led the team with seven tackles. He returned the opening kickoff for 13 yards.

The Tigers are 103-2 since 2002 and laid claim to seven straight district and north half championship titles. They have five straight 5A state championship titles and trophies.

This is the last year both teams will play 5A football as next year they will move to 6A.