Cougars down Independence 11/5/2013

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cougars down Independence

By Myra Bean

North Panola football ended the regular season 6-5 with a 42-24 win over district foe Independence Friday night.

That win gave the Cougars a third place finish in district 2-3A for the second straight year and set up a first round playoff match with Booneville in Booneville Friday. This is the first meeting between the two teams since the playoffs of 2008 where North Panola won 27-21 at home.
Booneville placed second in District 1-3A behind North Pontotoc whom Independence will play Friday night. In other playoff action, Charleston (2-3A champion) will host Belmont (1-3A fourth) and Water Valley (2-3A runner up) will host Kossuth (1-3A third).

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North Panola vs Independence
The Cougars scored first with 7:56 left in the first quarter on back-to-back 20-yard catches by Darius Thomas from Jatavious Farmer, capping a five-play, 63-yard drive. The two-point run failed.

Independence answered with a 22-yard field goal with 4:15 left to cut the score 6-3. Independence capped a seven-play, 59-yard drive.

Then the Cougars went on to score 20 unanswered points before the half. Thomas scored his second touchdown of the first quarter on a 43-yard pass from Farmer, which capped a five-play, 65-yard drive with 2:50 left and a 12-3 lead as the two-point attempt failed.

Lucius Walls scored his first touchdown of the season on a 12-yard pass from Farmer in the second quarter with 9:35 left. The two-point run by Thomas gave the Cougars a 20-3 lead. The six-play, 76-yard drive was aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Independence which put the ball on the Independence 18. Junior tightend Willie Hibbler also caught a 33-yard pass which put the ball on Independence 30 followed by the 15-yard penalty.

The Cougars got one more touchdown in the second quarter, a two-yard run by Tevin Wink with 1:54 left. The two-point attempt failed on the 12-play, 74-yard drive.

However, Independence did not just run down the clock and go into the locker room for halftime. The Wildcats staged a two-minute drill and scored on a 37-yard pass from Brandon Hailey to Savier Wooten with 14 seconds left in the half. The two-point attempt failed as the score stood 26-9 at halftime.

Independence kept its momentum into the third quarter. The Wildcats pulled a little closer with a 24-yard run by Fred Brownlee with 4:15 left. The PAT cut the Cougar lead to 10, 26-16.

The Cougars answered on their next possession as Wink ran untouched up the middle for a 17-yard run with 2:50 left in the third. Farmer took in the two-point conversion for the 34-16 lead. The five-play, 54-yard drive was highlighted by a 27-yard run by Farmer that got the ball to the six. Back-to-back offside and holding penalties move the ball to the 17.

Independence turned the next possession over on downs, but got it back on an interception with 33.6 seconds left in the third on the Cougar 26-yard line. Five plays later, Hailey scored on a 10-yard run and connected with Davey Worley on the two-point conversion cutting the lead to 10, 34-24 with 10:43 left in the game.

The Wildcats were on a roll. They tried an onside kick and a Cougar player tried to recover the ball but the Wildcats were able to corral it on the Cougar 47. They pushed the ball all the way down a half yard from the end zone as the Cougar defense stuffed their effort to get into the end zone.  Independence drove to the one yard line and could not get any closer and was forced to turn the ball over on downs. A touchdown and two-point conversion at that point would have brought Independence within two points.

“We just had a little lull trying to work in some new different personnel groupings and didn’t have the usual continuity we had with our normal guys,” said Cougar head coach Derek King.

“Overall, I think we did a very good job of getting some fourth down stops. I think we did a very good job of answering after forcing a turnover on downs which is one thing we hurt ourselves with Water Valley and Charleston was getting a stop and then giving it back.”

North Panola put the icing on the cake with a four yard run by Farmer with 3:02 left in the game. The two-point conversion by Farmer gave the Cougars the 42-24 lead and final score.

The Cougars had 414 total yards with 229 rushing and 185 passing. Independence had 361 total yards, 279 rushing and 82 passing. The Cougars had 12 penalties for 105 yards and Independence five for 40 yards.

Farmer completed 11 of 20 for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He rushed 13 times for 73 yards and one touchdown.

The leading rusher was Wink with 117 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns. Thomas had 42 yards on one carry and one touchdown.

Thomas was the leading receiver with 88 yards on five catches with one touchdown, followed by Walls with 57 yards on four catches and one touchdown. Hibbler had 40 yards on two catches.
On defense, Virgil Jones led with seven solo tackles and four assists. Mike Hollins and Kevin Merrell had career high seven solo tackles in one game. Hollins also had five assists and Merrell had two assists and one tackle for loss.

Other defensive leaders include Brandon Connor, four solo tackles, three assists, one tackle for loss; Robert Oliver, four solos, four assists, one tackle for loss.

Thomas leads the team in interceptions with three and Vondeddrick Hunt, who has not played much other than special teams, was called to play defense in which he registered three solo tackles, three assists and one tackle for loss.

“The most encouraging thing is our seniors who have had a long four years get to finish with a winning regular season which is a great accomplishment in itself. So I am happy for them. I am happy for our coaches. After all their work to be able to get a 6-5 season that just builds a ton of confidence. Overall it was good. I think we came out relatively unscathed. We will be somewhat ready for next week from the injury standpoint,” King said.