Jungle cats unleashed in Meridian tonight 9/6/2013

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 6, 2013

Jungle cats unleashed in Meridian tonight

By Angie Ledbetter
It has been a long time coming but finally the time is here. South Panola and Meridian will meet in a regular season game, at least for the next two years, in a battle of the jungle cats.

It has been three years since the South Panola Tigers faced the Meridian Wildcats but tonight the Tigers will make the trip to the largest high school football stadium in the state which seats 14,000, Charles Armstrong Field in Ray Stadium.

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“I’ve been down there before but these kids haven’t,” said Tiger head coach Lance Pogue. “Historically that’s a tough place to play but when you kick it off all of that stuff is over with. To win big you’ve got to play on the road and it’ll be a big test for us.” 

The teams are very familiar with each other’s names, but players are not the same. The teams have met four times but only in state championship games and the Tigers have won three of those contests, the latest being the 6A state championship in 2010 by a score of 28-7.

The one game the Wildcats can brag about is the 5A state championship on December 8, 2008 when they defeated the Tigers 26-20 in overtime to end the Tiger 89-game win streak.

Pogue does not think either of the championship games will be anything to talk about between the two teams.

“Those kids weren’t playing then and neither were ours,” he said. “It’s different kinds of teams and I’m sure their interest is getting better in this part of the season just like ours.”

After playing on Thursday night Pogue said it gave the team an extra day on the weekend to catch their breathe a little bit.

“I think it was good for the team. We practiced for a little while on Monday and gave them the rest of the day off. Tuesday we went back to normal schedule. I felt like it worked good for us at this time.”

Both teams enter the contest under a lot of anticipation. The Tigers ranked No. 3 and the Wildcats No. 6 in the state by the Clarion-Ledger are 2-0 to start their seasons.

The Tigers may have an edge since they are on a 15-game winning streak against their in-state opponents but they are not taking that for granted.

“Meridian is Meridian and they’re always one of the top teams in the state and very talented. It’s no different this year.”

The Wildcats return five starters on their offense and three on defense.

Under center will be No. 12 Jamarius Smith, a 6-2/220 junior, who is listed as one of the top prospects in the class of 2015. In the first game he completed 10 of 19 passes for 253 with two touchdowns with one interception in a 34-7 victory over Northwest Rankin.

“Smith is a great quarterback. He’s a big difference maker and makes everything go.”

Senior running back Richard McQuarley had 11 rushes for 97 yards with one touchdown and five receptions for 197 yards with two touchdowns, and was named to the Clarion-Ledger’s Top Performer list.

“McQuarley is so fast and a big play threat every time,” said Pogue. “He and Smith together on offense are very dangerous.”

The Wildcats will come out throwing the ball for the majority of the game, according to Pogue.
“Smith can really throw the ball and is a running threat also. They have a lot of weapons offensively and keep a lot of pressure on you.”

Pogue said McQuarley is the primary guy and Austin Holt is a role player.

“They have quality players and when Holt comes in, they don’t lose anything.”

Holt is a 5’7”, 182-pound senior running back and No. 15 Corey Davis a 6’1”, 183-pound senior wide receiver.

The key to the Wildcat’s defense is Clarion-Ledger’s Dandy Dozen player C. J. Hampton, 6’1”, 190-pound senior safety. Hampton has verbally committed to Ole Miss.

Last week the Wildcats edged past Quitman 29-22 but Pogue said he did not put a lot of stock into that game.

“That’s been a history of that series and Quitman has always played them tough,” he said. “I’m sure they were looking toward us. I watched the film and saw all of their players and that’s my main concern.”

South Panola junior running back Darrell Henderson made the Clarion-Ledger Top Performer list also with his 318 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns in the Tiger’s 55-33 win over West Point.
Pogue said the Tigers made a lot of improvement between the first and second games.

“We’re not anywhere close to what I think we can be but I thought we were way better as a football team six days later and that’s what you wanted to see,” he said. “We made a jump and the charge is to keep working at it and stay hungry.”

Two coaches with a close friendship will face each other on opposite sides of the field.

Coaching his seventh season at South Panola, Pogue holds an 82-8 record with four state championships while Meridian head coach Larry Weems has a 129-60 record in his eight years with one state championship.

“Coach Weems is a good coach and won a state championship,” Pogue said. “He’s always a threat in the south. When you mention Meridian you know you’ve got to be ready because historically they’re one of the best.”

Pregame is at 6 p.m. on FM 100.5 and kickoff is at 7 p.m.