SP/MC Show Time

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 27, 2009

Junior quarterback Lee Self directs the Tiger charge. The Panolian photo by Andy Young

Madison Central at South Panola: It’s show time!

By Brad Greer

The pregame hype is over. It’s show time.

Since the beginning of football season way back in August, every high school football fan from Tupelo to Gulfport has been talking about the potential clash between 6A powerhouses South Panola and Madison Central. The Tigers defeated the Jaguars 24-21 in last year’s north half championship.

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After 13 weeks of football, the showdown has become a reality as the Tigers host the Jaguars tonight at 7 p.m. for the North 6A State Championship. The winner will advance to the first ever 6A State Championship game next Friday at Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson where they will take on the Oak Grove-Ocean Springs winner.

Both teams feature explosive offenses and swarming defenses as Madison Central has scored 50 or more points six times this year. South Panola meanwhile boasts one of the top defensive units in the state by surrendering 30 points in the last eight games.

Madison Central comes into tonight’s contest with a 13-0 record and is ranked No. 10 in the nation according to Rivals.com. The Jaguars defeated Starkville 63-27 in the first round of the playoffs then pounded Olive Branch 54-23 last week after falling behind 15-2 in the first quarter.

South Panola (12-1) eased past Northwest Rankin 54-10 then held Clinton to minus 13 yards rushing in route to a 42-0 victory last week. The Tigers are currently ranked No. 28 in the Rivals.com national poll.

“There is no question about it, this is a big game. We are just trying to stay focused and not get caught up in all of the hype surrounding it. We are trying to stay calm and getting a good practice plan together. We feel like we have done that. The kids have got a great attitude but as each day passes you can feel the intensity rise and we are excited about being where we are at,” said South Panola head coach Lance Pogue.

“This is going to be a battle between two great football teams. They have a bunch of skilled guys just as we do. They have a very good defensive unit same as us, as well as some good running backs and receivers. It is going to be a collection of very talented players on both teams,” Pogue added.

Madison Central is led on offense by quarterback Peyton Johnson. The six-foot, 185-pound senior has thrown for 1,976 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season while rushing for 348 yards and 12 touchdowns. Johnson’s main targets through the air are Tobias Singleton (51 catches, 749 yards and 11 touchdowns) and senior wideout L.J. Hollins (33- 393, 4TD’s). Senior tailback Tamarco Taylor (5’8” 175 pounds) leads the team in rushing with 815 yards and eight touchdowns.

Senior linebackers Tyree McDonald (6-foot; 205)  and Rob White (6’1” 205) lead the Jaguar defensive unit with 85 and 75 tackles each while senior defensive end Bryon Bennett (6’3” 265) leads the team with 10.5 quarterback sacks.

The Jaguars are gunning for their first state title since 1999 when former Ole Miss standout and ex-Washington Redskins wide receiver Mike Espy led them to an undefeated season.

Madison Central defeated South Panola 25-24 and stopped a South Panola scoring chance with an interception with 42 seconds left in the game.

Pogue said whoever can come up with the biggest plays at critical times of the game might have the upper hand.

“Turnovers and whoever can minimize their penalties will, I think, play a key role. We pride ourselves in being a good, clean operating football team and we are going to have be at the top of our game to beat them,” said Pogue.

In last week’s victory over Clinton, the Tigers rolled up 524 yards of total offense, 456 of which came via a punishing ground attack.

Nick Parker rushed for a season-high 273 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns. Parker has rushed for 1,461 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season.

Senior running back Domonique Carothers is second on the team with 918 yards on 161 carries and 14 touchdowns.

Junior signal-caller Lee Self will direct the South Panola offense. Self has passed for 1,601 yards on the year with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Junior Nicklos Brassell leads a talented group of receivers with 1,123 yards and 14 touchdowns. Marcus Henry follows with 241 yards and one touchdown.

Senior Devin Clark leads a ball-hawking defensive unit with 79 tackles and 13.5 sacks while sophomores Issac Gross and Temario Strong follows closely behind with 74 and 73 tackles each. Gross has 12 sacks to his credit while Strong has registered 10 on the season. Junior Taylor Rotenberry is fourth on the team with eight sacks.

Pierre Conner leads the defensive secondary with four interceptions while fellow cornerback Al Hentz has broken up 12 passes this year.