Year in Sports

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sisters Haylei Plummer (left) and Hillari posed with South Panola head fastpitch coach Ashleigh Hicks with the trophy after winning the state championship over Harrison Central in May. This was the last high school game the sisters played together. The Panolian photo by Myra Bean

End of Tiger win streak tops 2008 sporting news, along with fastpitch state championship

By Myra Bean

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The 2008 year in sports had some predictable and unpredictable results in some areas and some pleasant surprises in others.

Let’s take a look at 20 of the top sports stories surrounding Panola County athletes this year.

1. The most talked about team in Panola county is the South Panola football team who led the nation with the longest win streak until the State Championship loss to Meridian December 5. The Tigers built an 89-game win streak and ended the season 14-1. The team has played in seven straight state championships, winning five with a 103-2 record since 2002.

This year David Conner was the lone Dandy Dozen on the team. He, along with Marvin Burdette and Don Blevins, played in the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star game. Conner was the north team’s Most Valuable defensive player.

The Tigers branched out this past season and played Apopka, Fla. on ESPNU national television, drawing over 10,000 fans to the stands and millions to the TV station. The closest game of the season, aside from the overtime loss to Meridian, was the 14-13 win over Tupelo.

Earlier in the year, longtime head coach and defensive coordinator Willis Wright stepped down from his position. Pogue took over as defensive coordinator and hired Jamie Easly to work the defense along with him.

Also earlier in the year, senior running back Darius “Tig” Barksdale was named Parade All-American, Red Zone Player of the Year, U.S. Army All-American, but did not sign a national letter of intent on “national signing day.”

2. The South Panola fastpitch team is by far the second most talked about sport activity in the county. The girls earned back-to-back state championships under two-year coach Ashleigh Hicks and now sports two rings to lay claim to the honor.

On the field they were led by two-time Miss Softball and Gatorade Softball player of the year Whitney Kiihnl who signed to play with Liberty College. She led them to a 63-8 two-year record.

At the end of the season, the Lady Tigers were ranked No. 25 by USA Today.

Some top players were spurred from the team and chosen as All-Stars, Leann Parrish, Kiihnl, Casi Brooks, Haylei Plummer and Haley Hood. Hicks was chosen to coach the All-Star team in 2008.

3. The South Panola and North Panola girls basketball teams made it to the state tournament. South Panola had not made it since 1972 and North Panola had been absent for 20 years. North Panola was eliminated in the first round and South Panola in the second round. South Panola Lady Tigers Sabrina Townsend and Chasity Kearney were chosen to the All-State teams. Townsend signed to play JUCO basketball at Northwest and has seen some playing time.

4. South Panola baseball players David Renfroe and Ethan Bright sign to play college baseball. Renfroe signs with Ole Miss and Bright with Mississippi State. Renfroe was chosen to play in the 2008 Under Armor All-America Baseball game on August 17 and pitched at Wrigley Field. He struck out five and hit the only homerun of the game.

5. North Panola’s football team ended the season 7-5 in the second round of the playoffs. Quarterback Quin Ellis and wide receiver Ricky Hunt were chosen second team all-state. New coaches with North Panola included Adam Wilson, Houston Ealy, Joaquin Taylor, Ricky Hunt and Rennaldo Taylor.

6. The South Panola Athletic Foundation forms to put down artificial turf in Robert H. Dunlap Stadium, home of the South Panola Tigers. The field debuted in the South Panola vs. Grenada game on September 12.

7. North Delta fastpitch team earns trip to the state tournament.

8. The South Panola cheerleaders were selected the No. 6 squad in the nation in Orlando, Fla. in February.

9. Ole Miss’ Jamarca Sanford receives the coveted Chuck Mullins Courage Award on April 15. Teammate Peria Jerry is selected 1st team All-America, named the SEC defensive lineman of the week for the 2008 season and was a Conerly Trophy finalist.

10. Richard Russo steps down as head coach of the North Delta football team and Lance Thomas is named head coach. North Delta finished the 2008 season 6-5. John Paul Keel was named District 1-1A Most Valuable Player. Also joining the coaching squad was Hayden Sullivant.

11. South Panola head coach Lance Pogue was selected to coach in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on January 3, 2009.

12. 9-10 year old Batesville Steelers win the Youth Football League Super Bowl. Darrell Henderson rushes for 2,244 yards and 44 touchdowns on the season.

13. Mississippi State cornerback Derek Pegues helped lead MSU to the Liberty Bowl championship and was named Overall Most Valuable Player and Defensive Most Valuable Player.

14. The South Panola baseball team head coach Patrick Robey was chosen to coach the All-Star team where Tyler Benson played. Other baseball awards in 2-5A include David Renfroe, MVP; first team Colton Ales, Benson and Ethan Bright; second team Joseph Blair and Corbin Moore.

15. The Mississippi High School Activities Association approves a new 6-class system. South Panola was assigned a 6A school and North Panola a 4A school.

16. South Panola football and softball teams spurred not only articles but books published by The Panolian: Tigers Drive for 5 and Back-2-Back State Champs. Outside books in which the Tigers appears are Y’all vs. Us and Gridiron Dynasties.

17. Willie Odom sinks a hole-in-one on June 7.

18. South Panola girl’s bowling teams goes to the state tournament and places fifth.

19. The North Delta Jr. High basketball boys are District Champs.

20. Bobby Roebuck won the 2007-08 Big Buck Contest with a 64.50 score.