Cougars plan to start win streak with Okolona 9/19/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 19, 2014

Cougars plan to start win streak with Okolona

By Myra Bean
The 3-1 North Panola Cougars will bring their show back to town for another three weeks as they host the Okolona Chieftains (1-2)  in non-district action tonight at 7 p.m.

The Cougars are coming off an upset win 34-32 over Ripley last Friday.

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Okolona is coming off a 25-24 loss to Blytheville, Ark. Their only win of the season was over East Oktibbeha to open the season. They lost to Houston in their second game, 44-6.

Last year when North Panola traveled to Okolona, the midsouth was experiencing hours worth of rainfall. It rained throughout the game and North Panola came away with a 28-20 overtime victory.

North Panola head coach Derek King did not believe they came away with a true look of the Okolona team.

“Film this year gives us a better idea,” he said. “They are very similar to us. They have a lot of speed and a pretty good-sized offensive line. As long as it’s dry, I think the game we play this year will be completely different from last year.”

Radar reports show no rain is expected for Friday night football games.

The Cougars are looking forward to being home for a few weeks.

“Yeah, it will be good because we have not had a good home record,” King said. North Panola is 4-6 at home the last three years.

“I am expecting that to change,” he said. “We don’t have any easy games, but it’s nice to be able to have pregame meals a little later, not have to get on the bus and travel, but just get to the field house and lay out and relax, especially now that we know we will have a crowd.”

King said he is aware South Panola will have a big home game tonight and that all three local teams will be home next Friday when North Panola celebrates homecoming.

He plans to put that pursuing defense on the field and start a home winning streak.
The defense was the difference in the game with Ripley last week.

“They stepped up,” King said. “That first quarter was not good at all. We showed some resolve. Some of the adjustments we made last week, ended up showing up in the game Friday.”

North Panola installed a new defense with a new defensive coordinator in Brent Clark.

At first, defense looked good in spots in the spring, according to King, and adjustments and tweaks were made in the summer, even until last week.

“So it is coming together. Even Monday’s practice, you can kind of see that glove fitting a little bit more than it has,” he said. “It is a good thing to be able to be able to say some good things about the defense. For as much as we score, last year we felt like offensively we had to press which led us to more turnovers.”

North Panola has not thrown any interceptions or lost any fumbles this season.

“We talked about protecting our house against Hernando,” King said. “We fought to the bitter end. I was disappointed in the result but not in the effort, not in the passion. Being at home is going to be good. Kids love the smoke machine and the fireworks. We are trying to create a real home-game feel. We have the fans and the band, folks standing around, barbecues going. It feels like a home game atmosphere.”

NP vs. Okolona
Though the upset win over Ripley is in the back of the team’s minds, King said Tuesday that the team is looking forward to Okolona instead of back at Ripley. He heard the players talking about the Ripley game at rehab Sunday, other than that, they have been learning about Okolona and who the weapons are.

Four of the top producers for Okolona include senior quarterback Tyson Eddie (1); junior running back J. C. Buchannan (22); senior wide receiver Rod Jones; and senior offensive/defensive lineman Robert Herron (50).

“Those kids are really good looking on film, especially 22,” King said. “He is a game breaker. If we don’t pursue him, gang tackle this week, he has made some people look really bad. He has good feet, no wasted motion, pretty impressive to see that kind of back.

“Those four there, they are like us, they play both ways,” he added. “So you will see them on both sides of the ball. They are the ones who caught all of our eyes.”