SP Preseason

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tigers look to get back on state championship track

By Angie Ledbetter

Despite posting a 9-4 season last year, the South Panola Tigers are still ranked in the national preseason polls at No. 33.

Lance Pogue will be head coaching the Tigers for his sixth season with an overall record of 67-6.
After losing 20 seniors from the 2010 national championship team, Pogue was aware the 2011 team would be lacking in experience.

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“I knew it could be a tough season after losing 20 starters, so many unproven kids and being limited in so many areas,” he said. “Obviously it didn’t show up on the scoreboard but we went 9-4 under some difficult circumstances but overall in my eyes those guys were champions.”

That was the worse season ranking since 2001 when the Tigers went 5-6. Since Pogue  took over the program, his teams had only lost two games the previous four years. He looked back at those five teams.

“All five have been good,” said Pogue. “You get attached to each group of seniors and it’s bitter sweet when they leave. I’ve been so pleased with all of the kids I’ve coached here and it’s been a lot of them in six years. Obviously last year we didn’t win a championship, but I was as proud of that group of guys as any teams we’ve had even championship wise.”

If Pogue could go back and pick one game he could replay from last season it’d be Gulfport.

“It was probably the most disappointing game of the year because it was just one of those we couldn’t do anything right,” Pogue said. “We played such good defense and did not score any points and even thought we were going to win the game at the end. You have those but wish it didn’t happen at that time.”

Pogue noted changes have occurred since Pogue started at South Panola.

“Going to 6A was a big deal and the game is changing,” he said. “People are playing more like college football utilizing their best players and a lot of no huddle. We always seem to play at a high level and getting prepared to play your best every Friday but again it comes back to players. I’m really looking forward to this team because I’m excited about the ability we have.”

This year the coaching staff went through big changes, losing two to head coaching jobs.
“I’m proud of the guys that got head coaching opportunities but its bitter sweet also,” Pogue said. “The new guys hired came in with fresh ideas.”

“Coach Trey Dickerson, Coach Jamie Easley along with Coach Houston Ealy all returned and I’m really excited about them,” Pogue said.” Another addition I’m excited about is Coach Milton Talbert who was a former dandy dozen guy from Hattiesburg who played in the SEC at Alabama. He’s a real young guy with a lot of energy and not much older than some of the kids so he relates well with the kids.”

Dickerson returned as the offensive coordinator which shifted Matt Mock to defense working with the secondary. Danny Robertson coaches the offensive line while Ealy is over the fullbacks and tightends. Arnie Oakes coaches running backs and Trey Higdon is pulling double duty coaching receivers along with head coaching the junior high team.

Defensively, Easley works with the defensive backs. Talbert coaches the defensive line while Pogue coaches linebackers. Other junior high coaches Artee Smith, Coach Gary Sims and Thomas Pipkin also pull double duty.

“We’ve got a really good staff that’s working together,” Pogue said. “It’s a bunch of loyal guys that really care about the kids and they’re No. 1 with us. We’re in the business of helping make a difference in the kid’s lives and these guys believe that every day.”

The players worked hard throughout the off season, according to Pogue, citing great attendance at workouts.

“The kids fought through the heat, putting themselves in great condition becoming both physically and mentally tough,” Pogue said. “The seniors motivation provided positive leadership for the team.”

After the summer workouts, the coach said the Tigers got off to an outstanding start in preseason practice.

“After one week of practice one thing I see we have is an abundance of speed all the way across the board,” said Pogue.

Eighteen returning starters will hit the field along with a big group of sophomores

“A lot of mobility has been added to the program,” Pogue said. “One thing that goes unnoticed is our offensive line that’s worked hard and has a lot of experience.”

The offensive line was a big question mark last year. Offensive players have been moved around to show a different look.

“We moved Quandez Lee to nose guard,” Pogue said. “He’s very strong and compact guy that gets off the ball fast and look for him to be a real dominant force.”

Lee was a tailback last year.

“I think Darrell Davis is a big tough defensive lineman who’s finally getting his opportunity to start and Rodrickus Hunt will play a lot as defensive lineman this year,” Pogue said. Hunt was an offensive lineman last year.

Other key players Pogue will be depending on are Dandy Dozens Tony Conner and Deon Mix, along with Ladarius Strong, Terry Boyd and Dashawn Lindsay.

The Tigers open the season August 18 when they host West Point. Kickoff at 7:30.