SP Football

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2011

Tigers and Chargers to meet in district battle

By Angie Ledbetter

The South Panola Tigers have been on a spin offensively the last few games and are firm about keeping it going tonight when the Grenada Chargers visit Robert H. Dunlap Stadium.  

With only two division games left in the season topping the leader board in 6A Region 1 is Olive Branch (5-0) while the Tigers (4-1) stand in the No. 2 spot and Grenada (1-4) is in seventh.

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The Tigers (6-3) are ranked No. 3 in the state by MaxPreps.

In the last three games, the Tigers have scored 221 points . In the first six games, they only scored 100. They allowed 88 points the first six games but have only allowed 41 in the last three games.

The teams on the field tonight will be somewhat strangers to each other. After the realignment last year the Chargers moved to 1-6A from 2-6A, replacing Starkville who moved to 5A. The teams have only met twice since Lance Pogue has been head coach. In 2007 the Tigers defeated the Chargers in regular season 41-13 and last year they shutout the Chargers 56-0 in the first round of playoffs.  

The Chargers are showcasing a young team this year along with a new head coach. The team consists of 11 seniors, 28 juniors, 26 sophomores and two freshmen.

“They’re kind of like us with a lot of underclassman,” said Pogue. “I think they’re playing some freshmen also like a lot of teams do this time of the year. The coach is building for the future. Even though they’ve got a good team right now they’re thinking ahead.”

After Grenada (4-5 overall) started the season with two wins, they’ve been struggling since. They defeated Oxford 16-15 in the season opener and beat Kosciusko 44-6 the second week. Charleston handed them their first loss (21-12) the next week and they edged past Winona 28-22 the following week. Starting division action they downed Desoto Central 59-29 on September 23. Since then Grenada has lost to Tupelo 27-21, Horn Lake 31-28, Southaven 42-6 and last week Olive Branch, 49-20.

“They’ve been on some hard luck,” said Pogue. “They started really hot and beat Oxford their first game. When they hit division play they stumbled but obviously this is a tough league. They’ve played teams tough with Tupelo being a six point game and the Horn Lake game went down to the wire so they’ve been just a couple of plays away from being in the playoff position.” 

In nine games the Chargers have scored 234 points, averaging 26  points per game, 150.2 rushing yards and 176.2 passing yards.

“Grenada is a greatly improved team from last year and we have a lot of respect for them. They have capabilities.”

Junior quarterback Payne Horan leads the Grenada team. He has completed 94 of 175 passes with 15 touchdowns and rushed 83 times for 479 yards and seven touchdowns.

“Horan played against us in the playoffs last year and he’s a left-handed guy who can throw and run it. They’re depending on him as one of their main guys. He’s involved heavily in running some options.”

On the receiving end of Horan’s ball will be senior wide receivers Darius White and junior Trey Bledsoe. White has recorded 635 yards on 39 receptions and seven touchdowns. Bledsoe has had 19 receptions for 300 yards and five touchdowns.

“Both White and Bledsoe are dangerous guys for them. They’ve got some weapons and obviously we’ve got to keep them from making some big plays on us.”    

 Another key player to watch will be junior running back Ryan Artman who has 81 carries for 479 yards with four touchdowns

“He’s kind of a fullback guy who’s big and tough. He’s had a big year,” Pogue said.

On defense the Chargers have allowed 242 points.  

The Charger’s defense is led by young talent in the form of sophomore linebacker 20 Shareef White with 64 tackles followed by sophomore linebacker Genard Avery, 48 tackles. Senior defensive lineman Tony Drinkwater has 45 tackles.

The Tiger’s stats have continued to get better each week. In nine games they have scored 221 points and allowed 129, averaging 22.1 points per game, 75.5 passing yards, 186.3 rushing yards, 36.3 tackles and one and a half sacks per game.

“The guys are feeling really good about themselves after winning three games in a row. They’re working hard and continuing to try to get better each day.”

Pogue credits several things for his team’s latest accomplishments including the improvement of the offensive line.

“The offensive line has come together with all those new guys and gained some confidence after some success,” Pogue said. “Also the offensive coaches have done a good job of just staying patient and continuing to work on the fundamentals.”

He cited the continued stellar season of junior athlete Tony Conner and the play of some more running backs.

“Tevis Flowers has done a good job but we’re still using Conner at quarterback and some at running back. Flowers is doing a solid job and our receivers like Ron Taylor and those guys are doing a really good job. It just took some time and we’re working together.”

Pregame will start at 6 p.m. on FM 100.5 with kickoff at 7 p.m.

Tickets will be available during school hours today for $7.