SP Football v. MUS
By Angie Ledbetter
The South Panola Tigers will take their now 2-1 record on the road tonight to face the 1-2 Clarksdale Wildcats.
The Tigers undefeated young season came to an end at the hands of a tough ESPNU matchup between the Tigers and Memphis University School (MUS). MUS left with a 21-19 hard fought win.
“First let me say that I do not remember ever playing a team the caliber of South Panola that displayed such wonderful sportsmanship and hospitality,” said MUS head coach Bobby Alston. “This was a great contest between two teams that played the game the way it was intended. Hard hitting but clean play was on display throughout the evening.
“We have played some tough opponents over the years but I am not sure we have played one better than this and the heart and soul of our team was evident as it also was for the Tigers,” Alston continued.
(See related commentary by Rupert Howell on page A4.)
South Panola last lost a regular season and home game on November 9, 2001 to Greenville-Wesson. That loss cost the Tigers a playoff berth and a winning season. Ed Stanley was replaced by Ricky Woods as head coach.
The defending Tennessee Division II-AA State champions advanced their win streak to 16.
South Panola was plagued by two costly fumbles as MUS took advantage and turned them into scores.
“When you play the game this can happen,” said head coach Lance Pogue. “I’m proud of our guys but I’m not happy about losing by any stretch. We didn’t have any intentions of losing but it happened. It’s a life experience for our football team. You find out about your character after losing but we will be back. We came back after Jackson. If we grow from this, we’ll be in the hunt when it’s all said and done.
“We could’ve caved in when it was 21-0 but we fought back and had a chance to win. We just didn’t make it happen,” he added.
With just a little over a minute taken off the clock, the Tigers fumbled and the Owls recovered, capitalizing with a 44-yard field goal. In the second quarter, the Owls scored on a 29-yard field goal and added a 55-yard touchdown pass from Brunetti to Allmond. The Tigers fumbled again on their own 12 and the Owls scored a touchdown, putting them up 21-0 with 8:22 left in the first half.
The Tigers shut down the scoring offense of MUS after that, not allowing any more scores.
Nick Parker got the Tigers on the clock with 2:37 left in the second quarter when he scored on a four-yard run. The PAT by Nolan Parker was good for a 21-7 score at halftime.
The third quarter belonged to the Tigers. Nick Parker went right into the teeth of the Owl defense for a 50-yard touchdown. The Tigers were flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty and had to kick the PAT from 35 yards. The kick was short and the score stood 21-13.
“I wasn’t real crazy about the penalty,” Pogue said. “We had two kids who chest bumped, showing a little excitement. They weren’t taunting the other team or doing anything out of line. I thought it was a little over reacted but that’s the way it goes.”
Parker added an eight-yard touchdown run to get the Tigers within range but the two-point attempt failed. The last draw for the Tigers was a 36-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter which went wide.
The Tigers ended the game with 285 yards of total offense and the Owls had 217. Nick Parker was the leading rusher with 123 yards on 23 carries with three touchdowns.
On defense, Temario Strong had seven total tackles and two for loss. Qyen Griffin had six total tackles, two for loss and two pass deflections. Dennis Draper had six tackles, one for loss. Devin Clark had seven tackles, three for loss. Issac Gross had six tackles, two for loss. Taylor Rotenberry had five tackles, one for loss. Kendrick Market had four tackles, one for loss. Antonio Conner had three tackles and one pass deflection. Justin Wright had three total tackles.
After losing Friday night, the Tigers have had great attitudes in practice this past week.
“Everybody was hungry to get back to work and they’re fired up,” Pogue said. “They’ve seen some of the positives we had from the game like rallying back. They’re really upbeat.”
The Wildcats opened their season with a loss to West Bolivar. The following week they shut out Greenville Wesson 42-0 and last week they lost to Christian Brothers from Memphis 23-8.
The Wildcats will field a team of 54 players that include 13 seniors, 18 juniors and 23 sophomores.
“It’s not so much about Clarksdale for us. We want to try to work on ourselves this week and see if we can improve ourselves.”
With new coach Charles Reid, who replaced retired Jim Hughes, Clarksdale is trying to run the ball this year. Also on the Clarksdale staff is former South Panola standout, Jeremiah Brassell, as defensive coordinator.
The Wildcats are running two quarterbacks No. 1 James Ball and No. 2 Tavin Taylor. Other key players will be running back No. 4 Larry Mitchell, wide receiver No. 7 Tillman Brooks and wide receiver No. 11 Steve Horton.
Last year the Tigers made the road trip to Clarksdale and came out victorious 34-0. The Wildcats finished the season with a 4-6 record.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Directions: Take highway 6 west to Clarksdale (35 miles). Take slight left to stay on US-278 (.5 miles). Turn left on MS-161 North (3.5 miles). Turn left onto MS-322 (1.4 miles). Turn right on Lee Drive and go .2 miles.