Tigers welcome Northwest Rankin for first round 11/14/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2014

The South Panola defense was relentless against Desoto Central last week and produced a 28-0 shutout. South Panola’s Anfernee Benson, No. 4, John Ellis, No. 21 and Drelan Porter, No. 11 converge on this Jaguar runner. The Panolian photo by Angie Ledbetter

Tigers welcome Northwest Rankin for first round

By Angie Ledbetter
Tonight the South Panola Tigers will host Northwest Rankin in the first round of the 6A playoffs for the second year in a row.

The undefeated Tigers are the No. 1 seed in region 1 with a 7-0 record and the Cougars finished as the No. 4 seed in region 2 with a 3-4 record.

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There was a three-way tie for the fourth spot in region two before last week’s games. Northwest Rankin beat Murrah 21-20 for the last spot.

Starkville won the division followed by Clinton and Warren Central.

In Region 1-6A Southaven is No. 2 followed by Grenada and Tupelo.

Other matchups tonight include Southaven hosting Warren Central, Grenada at Clinton and Tupelo at Starkville. The winner of the South Panola/Northwest Rankin game will meet the winner of the Clinton/Grenada game.

Tiger head coach Lance Pogue said, “I told the guys that it’s been a long ride since last January which is almost 11 months ago. We’re 11-0, back to playoff time and everybody talks about it being a new season and it really is. If you don’t win, it’s all over.

“Every team out there has a goal to win a state championship when you start the playoffs,”
Pogue continued. “You’ve got to win and survive to the next round. We’ve got some experienced guys on this team and the seniors that have won a state championship before know what it’s like to get in the playoffs.  I feel like they’ll be energized and looking forward to the opportunity.”

In last year’s game, South Panola won 45-3 over the Cougars to advance to the second round.
“The Cougars have a new head coach with Tyler Peterson,” said Pogue. “He’s trying to get their program off the ground and as of late they’ve won some games down the stretch. They beat Murrah Friday night in overtime to get in the playoffs. The week before they lost to Madison Central 21-20 so they’ve played some close games.  I know they feel like they’re making good steps in their program. Northwest Rankin is a team that’s played well and improved from a year ago.”

Pogue said the Cougars really look like they are coming along offensively.

“They’re kind of a mixture with running and throwing the ball with a good balance. They have a really big offensive line also. Every time we’ve played them they’ve had big lineman.

“Defensively they have some big lineman as well,” Pogue added.

Senior 6’2”, 215-pound linebacker Cannon Gibbs is really good and a division one-type player. He has 124 tackles and six sacks. Senior linebacker Shelton Wallace (6,3”, 205) has 165 tackles. Senior linebacker Mason Jennings (5’10”,195) has 91 tackles. Also 6’1”, 335-pound senior Tony Adams is a good player on the defense, according to Pogue.

Northwest Rankin played close games against Clinton losing 28-21 and against Warren Central losing 21-13.

The Cougars have been under the leadership of sophomore quarterback Braden Smith who has completed 46 of 89 passes for 637 yards with seven touchdowns.

“Senior Murphy Beasley has played at that position the last three weeks,” said Pogue. “He does a good job of running and throwing the ball and is a senior so he’s got some experience. I think Smith might have had an injury. We’re counting on both of them but Beasley has been the starter for the last three weeks.”

Beasley has completed three of four passes for 33 yards with no touchdowns.

The number one guy at receiver is No. 3 Gralyn Jones Jr., a 6’0”, 180-pound senior that has 22 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns.

Splitting running back time will be senior Ricky Price and junior Ryan Amos.

“Both are smaller guys but very quick players who make you miss and that kind of deal,” Pogue said. “They’re good football players with experience.”

A big plus for the Tigers is they have some hurt players who have returned.

“That’s really big to have them back and that’s what you want at this time of the year,” Pogue said. “You want to have all of your guys healthy and give it your best shot. Having all hands on deck means a lot to us.”

Admission is $7 with no reserved seats and will be sold at the high school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today. Only State passes issued by the MHSAA will be honored. Kickoff is 7 p.m.