NP Cougars vs. Byhalia

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 6, 2009

Cougars end season with a win

By Myra Bean
The North Panola Cougars ended their season on a high note with a 26-7 win over Byhalia Tuesday night.

The Cougars (4-6 overall, 2-4 district) traveled to play the postponed game from Friday night. It was week six of  playing a mudfest, but the Cougars prevailed with 255 yards of total offense with 156 rushing.

Byhalia (5-6; 2-5) had 162 yards of total offense with 139 in the air.

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The Cougars were playing with seniors quarterback Quinn Ellis and linebacker Teon Arnold and junior wide receiver Ricky Hunt who were out for disciplinary reasons, according to Cougar head coach Clifton Davis Jr. He did not expound on the reason.

“I am proud of how the team played without them,” Davis said. “They could have easily given up without the starting quarterback and wide receiver.”

Cortez Hibbler pulled down his first interception of the season which led to a five-yard Vernon Lewis touchdown run with 4:25 left in the first half. Lewis’ two-point conversion attempt failed.

The touchdown capped a nine-play, 36-yard drive.

Hibbler picked off the pass with 6:32 left in the first half on fourth down and four.  He returned it to the Byhalia 36 which was only the beginning as the Cougars picked off passes during the next two Indian possessions.

On first and 10 from their own 40, safety Darius Loveberry capped his senior year with a 70-yard interception return from Indian quarterback Patrick Malone with 2:05 left in the first half. The Marquis Phillips pass from freshman backup quarterback Martavious Butler was good for the 14-0 lead.

On the kickoff, Byhalia’s freshman running back Andrey Collins returned the ball from his own 15 to the 50. On first and 10 from the Cougar 45, Malone put the ball in the air again and this time it was Tony Hibbler who jumped in front of the Indian receiver and ran 60 yards for the touchdown with 1:40 left in the half. The two-point conversion attempt by Lewis failed.

The scoring was not over for the first half. Byhalia scored with 42.5 seconds left in the half. Malone hooked up with receiver Tavares Neal for a 25-yard touchdown pass. The PAT by Randy Holt was good to cut the Cougar lead to 20-7 at the half.

The Cougars took the kickoff to open the second half on their own 40 yard line. Lewis carried the ball the majority of the way on the drive, but it was Butler who went in the last two yards for the touchdown. The touchdown capped a six-play drive with 9:41 left in the third. The two point attempt by Lewis failed to finish scoring.

Some key defensive plays besides the three first half interceptions were back to back tackles by Cortez Hibbler during Byhalia’s second possession. In the third quarter, Hibbler broke up a pass and almost intercepted it.

Martez Hooks made a touchdown saving tackle after a 27-yard pass. Roynell Keys sacked Malone for a 12-yard loss. Samtrix Frost forced a fumble but Byhalia recovered it. Then Frost sacked the quarterback on the next play for a three yard loss.

In the fourth quarter, Cortez Hibbler had a sack for a three-yard loss.

Leading rusher for the Cougars was Lewis with 156 yards on 32 carries and one touchdown. Aricus Diggs had 18 yards on four carries and Tony Hibbler had 16 yards on seven carries.

Butler completed two of six passes for 49 yards and one touchdown. He had negative 34 yards on eight carries and scored one touchdown.

Receiving were Loveberry, 30 yards on one catch and one touchdown. Marques Phillips had 19 yards on one reception.

Returning to play his last high school game was Terrance Miles who went out with a knee injury in the game against Greenwood. He had five kickoffs for 203 yards.

“It was good to end on a positive note,” Davis said. “We have something to build on for next year’s team.”