NP prepares for tough bout with Independence 10/31/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2014

NP prepares for tough bout with Independence

By Myra Bean
As the only game in town tonight, the North Panola Cougars (6-4 overall,  2-2 district) will host district foe the Independence Wildcats (4-6, 1-3) in the final regular season and district game.
If a determined Wildcats team pulls off the upset, they will earn a fourth-place berth in the playoffs. If they lose, they will hang up their cleats tonight.

North Panola head coach Derek King is well aware of the importance of tonight’s game.

Independence had a real shot at making the playoffs but lost to Holly Springs, 21-14, in overtime on October 17. Last week, Independence played Water Valley tough in a 27-13 loss.

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Some of the Wildcat key players include senior quarterback No. 5 Brandon Hailey, (5’11, 207 pounds); No. 4 senior linebacker Said Jones (6’3”, 220); No. 27 senior running back Tyler Bobo (5/7”, 205); No. 1 senior defensive back Deshun Mitchell (6’1”, 160); No. 50 offensive lineman Demarco Davis (6’3”, 230); and senior athlete No. 25 Xavier Wooten 5’6”, 165.

Independence has had a rocky past on the gridiron the past 15 years. From 2001 to 2007, the Wildcats made the playoffs with its best year being 2006. They were second in the district and lost in the second round of playoffs.

The other years they did not make it past the first round. In 1999 and 2000, Independence was fourth in the district but only the top two teams went to playoffs.

The 2008 season was the first hint that things had changed as they did not make the playoffs after seven years. They rebounded and made the playoffs in 2009 but again lost in the first round with a 5-7 overall, 2-3 district record.

The last time Independence had a winning record was 2006 where they broke even, 6-6, 4-2.
From 2007-2013, Independence has posted a 19-60 overall record, two seasons were winless until 2013, when Batesville’s Richard Russo was head coach.

The roster has grown to 70 players who are working to get back the past glory of the Wildcat team.

North Panola offensive coordinator Carl Diffee said, “I think we are going to get their best game.”
King agreed that since Independence is trying to play one more game, the Cougars will see a variety of formations and plays offensively and defensively.

“We have to be ready,” King said. “They showed some reverses, some different formations that we have to align to. There is more variety than they have had. We have to prepare for those things.”

The Cougars players are excited to host Independence on Halloween, King said.

“Our seniors have some motivation, too, because they are not happy that linebacker from Independence made the All-Star game and no one from our team did,” he added.

North Panola welcomed back to the field Willie Hibbler last Friday night after his three-week absence recovering from a car accident. Hibbler was chosen to play in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game, but no other player from North Panola was chosen to play in the Bernard Blackwell North-South All-Star football classic.

Russo is one of the assistant coaches at the All-Star game.

North Panola will also have senior night during halftime. Kickoff is 7 p.m.