SP vs OB

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 28, 2012

SP Tigers travel to take on No. 1 Olive Branch

By Angie Ledbetter

What has been the biggest rivalry in the northern part of the state in 6A football will continue tonight as the Clarion-Ledger’s Super 10 Poll No. 6 South Panola Tigers take a well known road trip to play the No. 1 Olive Branch Conquistadors, defending 6A state champions.

South Panola and Olive Branch will kick off at 7:30 p.m. in a 1-6A showdown. Tickets for the game may be purchased at the high school until 2 p.m. today.

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With an estimated standing room only game tonight at Leslie Poole Field, the Tigers will be looking to end the Conquistador’s 25-game winning streak. Last year Olive Branch defeated South Panola 24-6 at home.  

Olive Branch (5-0 overall, 1-0 district) opened its season with another rivalry in the north, the Madison Central Jaguars. It was a close game but the Conquistadors pulled off a 31-28 last second victory.

The following week Trezevant in Memphis fell to the Conquistadors 38-14. Continuing the Tennessee rivalry the Conquistadors downed Smyrna 42-19.

Memphis University School took on Olive Branch the fourth game of the season at MUS. MUS was up by 12 points halfway through the third quarter but Olive Branch came back in the fourth scoring 29 points to win 43-33.

Last week Olive Branch played the Backyard Brawl with Desoto County rival Southaven. It was war until the very end when Olive Branch pulled off another 31-28 victory.

Comparing schedules between South Panola and Olive Branch the Tigers have played two nationally-ranked teams in No. 12 Bentonville and No. 22 Hoover whereas Olive Branch has not played a nationally-ranked top 25 team.

In five games Olive Branch has scored 185 points and allowed 122. South Panola has scored 117 points on their opponents and allowed 95.

Tiger head coach Lance Pogue really has not compared the schedules between the Tigers and Conquistadors.

“I haven’t even worried about who they’ve played because they’re very talented,” Pogue said. “You start watching them on film and they’ve got a lot of mobility. We’ve studied them through the years and played them last year. We’ve switched film for the last two games with MUS and Southaven so we’ve just been studying those.”

Playing Olive Branch is an intense battle, according to Pogue.

“When you kick it off it really will not come into play who we’ve played or who they’ve played,” he continued. “It’ll just boil down to the two of us and I’m sure they’ll be looking at that the same way.”

As the Conquistadors enter the game with the 25-game winning streak Pogue said he knows how they feel.

“We’ve been there before and they’ve got to have an unbelievable amount of confidence right now,” he said. “They’ve always found ways to win especially over the last year and a half and that just goes with winning close games and believing you’re going to win.”

Olive Branch is under the field direction of senior quarterback Sam Craft, 6’0”/195 pounds. He has completed 39 of 84 passes for 665 yards and five touchdowns and thrown five interceptions. Craft has rushed for 542 yards on 83 carries for 542 yards scoring nine times.

Pogue said, “Craft is an outstanding athlete that could play as quarterback, running back and receiver so that gives you the description of his ability. He’s got great speed, shifty and can throw the ball so that makes him very dangerous. It almost makes you forget about Mays who they had last year that did such a great job. I think Craft does some things better than Mays.”

Another player to watch is running back Byrekus Payne,  5’10”/180. He’s carried the ball 42 times for 390 yards with four touchdowns and connected with Craft 15 times for 208 yards with one touchdown.

“He plays receiver, running back and everywhere,” said Pogue. “He’s a game breaker and can make a big play at any point.”

According to Pogue the offensive line is big.

“They have big size guys that can move so with Craft and Payne along with that offensive line make them very dangerous offensively.”

On the defense the Conquistadors have been without Isiah Taylor and Kevin Snow due to injuries.

“They’ve been kind of like us with some key injuries but they’ve got a lot of depth and speed on defense.”

“Jamil Collins is a defensive back who’s being highly recruited and Dontrell Nelson is a safety who’s being recruited also. All 11 on the defense are very impressive.”

Pogue said the Tigers have to keep Craft and Payne from just ripping and running through them and continue on what they did in last week’s game with Horn Lake.