NP vs. Senatobia
By Brad Greer
Statistically, it was not close, but unfortunately for North Panola football games are won on the scoreboard and not always on the field of play.
Penalties and mental mistakes proved to be the Cougar’s undoing yet again as North Panola dropped a 7-6 verdict to Senatobia Friday night on a wet and sloppy Cougar Field. The contest was the District 2-4A opener for both schools.
Trailing 6-0 with 9:19 left in the fourth quarter, the Warriors put together the game-winning drive by marching 45 yards in 10 plays as Josh Garrett scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 5:59 remaining. Christian Bejos booted the all-important extra point attempt. The drive was set up by a crucial roughing the punter penalty by North Panola on 4th-and-14 from the Cougar 34 that gave Senatobia a new set of downs.
“It was a great effort by our young men. I was very proud of them,” said North Panola head coach Clifton Davis Jr. “We had a mistake here and there, but overall it shows we are coming together in the right frame of mind and we are looking forward to the remainder of the season.
“Senatobia came in here tonight undefeated and we exposed some of their flaws I thought,” Davis continued. “The only thing we can do is move forward and get better and get ready for a tough Lafayette County team next week.”
Still in all, North Panola (2-3; 0-1) had one last gasp to win the game with under a minute to play in regulation when Ricky Hunt returned a punt 20 yards to the Warrior 26. But on the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Quin Ellis mis-handled the snap from center and fumbled the ball which Senatobia recovered to run out the clock.
Penalties were a huge factor in the game as Senatobia was penalized three times for 20 yards while North Panola was flagged 15 times for 141 yards.
“On their (Senatobia’s) scoring drive, there were four penalties against us that kept their drive alive. Some of them were questionable while some were our fault. Those were the things that enabled them to go forward. We stopped them twice on fourth down and both times we got called for a penalty that gave them a new set of downs,” said Davis.
North Panola took a 6-0 lead with 7:27 to go in the second quarter when Ellis plowed his way in from one yard out to complete a seven-play 37-yard drive. Hunt’s failed PAT proved to be crucial as the ball sailed wide left. The drive started on the Warrior 38 after a Cortez Hibbler fumble recovery.
Vernon Lewis was the workhorse for the Cougar offense as the senior running back rushed for 92 yards on 22 carries including 58 in the first half. Anthony Hibbler added four carries for ten yards while Darius Loveberry had one carry for six yards. Loveberry halted a Warrior scoring threat in the third quarter by intercepting a pass on the North Panola 13-yard line.
North Panola out-gained Senatobia in total yardage 167-138. The Cougars rushed for 113 yards and had 54 yards through the air while the Warriors tallied 102 yards on the ground and 36 passing. Ellis finished the night two-of-13 passing with both of his completions going to Hunt.
North Panola will travel to Lafayette County Friday while Senatobia (5-0; 1-0) has an open date. Kickoff is 7 p.m.