National Champions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 21, 2010

South Panola earns National Championship

Compiled by Dallas Jackson, Senior Analyst for

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Editor’s note: Reprinted with permission of

The biggest challenge for the South Panola High football team in Batesville, Miss., came the past two weekends.

When it wasn’t playing.

South Panola wrapped up its undefeated 15-0 season on Dec. 3 with an overpowering 28-7 victory over Meridian High in the Mississippi Class 6A state final.

It then had to wait and watch other states – the traditional power states where the national champion usually comes from – finish their post seasons, wondering if a school there would be impressive enough to knock South Panola off the top spot in the RivalsHigh Top 100 rankings.

“We were nervous,” South Panola coach Lance Pogue said. “We were hoping that finishing our season two weeks ago wouldn’t work against us.”

It didn’t.

South Panola held off its four biggest challengers – Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle and Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern – to win its first national championship. Last year’s national champion, Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep, finished sixth.

“We are very excited,” Pogue said. “It was my goal when I came here in 2007 to take this program to the national level and win a national title. It is very rewarding for the team and the town.”

South Panola is no stranger to success inside its own boarders – winning a state title in eight of the past 10 seasons. And it has been on the national scene for a while, finishing No. 28 in 2008 before improving to No. 11 last season.

“Obviously we had high hopes entering this season,” Pogue said. “We brought back 19 starters from last year’s state championship team and a lot of those kids were very talented.”

The team, which took over the top spot on Aug. 30, was never really challenged on the field, outscoring its opponents 687-117.

Its closest game – a 24-13 victory over Olive Branch in the state quarterfinals, marked the only time it didn’t win by three touchdowns or more.

“We beat them pretty good earlier in the season, but we knew the second time around it would be more difficult,” Pogue said. “That is a rivalry game for us and those guys have their pride. Our kids had a hard time getting energized for the game and it nearly cost us.”

Running back Qyen Griffin led the team with 2,670 yards and 37 TDs. He averaged over 9 yards per carry. But he wasn’t the only star.

Nickolas Brassell is the No. 1 ranked college prospect in the state and shined on both sides of the ball as a wide receiver, safety, and the team’s primary return man. Playmaker Kendrick Market was the Tigers’ best cornerback and a change-of-pace quarterback who could come in to spark the offense when needed.

And then there’s the defense, which gave up more than 13 points in a game only once all season – and that came against Georgia Class AAAA runner-up Colquitt County with the majority of those points coming after South Panola took a 30-7 lead in the first quarter and pulled its starters.

It is the first national championship on any level won by the state of Mississippi – something that’s not lost on Pogue.

“Sometimes we get overlooked in high school football because we aren’t Florida, Texas or California,” he said. “A lot of that has to do with population and we can’t control that. They have a lot of good teams, but they are going to because of size, but percentage wise we are right there with the best of them.”