Tigers come from behind to squash Starkville

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2014

South Panola’s Ephraim “Chevron” Kitchen showed off his versatility on the field Friday night against Starkville as he was a rusher, receiver and defender in route to a 36-26 win over the previously undefeated Yellowjacket team. South Panola will play its 15th state championship game on Friday. Photo courtesy of Robert Lester

Tigers come from behind to squash Starkville

By Myra Bean
and Angie Ledbetter
With a 36-26 win over Starkville in the North Half game Friday, South Panola wrote its ticket for a 15th appearance in the 6A State Championship with its 15th North Half Championship.

The Tigers will take on Oak Grove Friday at 7 p.m. on Scott Field in Davis Wade Stadium on the campus of Mississippi State University in Starkville.

Before a capacity, fired up crowd, the Tigers overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit to win.

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“I’ve been doing football a very long time and football has been good to me in my life but that right there was more heart and more gut,” Tiger head coach Lance Pogue told the team after the game. “You were down 13-0 at the half and nothing went our way the first half. They thought it was over and celebrated at halftime. If that’s the No. 2 team in the nation then where are we?”

Using the wildcat formation for most of the first half, the Tigers could not take advantage of three appearances in the red zone (inside 20) and turned the ball over on downs.

In the second half, the Tigers went back to what had worked all season long and let junior quarterback Tyler Pogue sling the ball down the field and connect with his wide receivers on three touchdowns. He also contributed on a fourth as a he pitched out to senior running back Darrell Henderson who threw a 45-yard pass connecting with Cole Rotenberry for a touchdown.
Pogue completed 14 of 25 passes for 244 yards.

“You know I don’t boast a lot,” coach Pogue said, “but Tyler made some big plays under a lot of tough circumstances and delivered. I’m proud of that.”

South Panola revamped during halftime and went on a scoring spree in the second half. Junior quarterback Tyler Pogue connected with junior receiver Cole Rotenberry on a 10-yard touchdown with 5:51 to go in the third quarter. Steven Collins kicked the extra point to cut the lead 13-7.

Then Starkville fumbled its next possession and Drelan Porter recovered with 4:38 left in the quarter. Demetrius Market capitalized on the turnover by catching a pass from Pogue down the middle and sprinting for a 30-yard touchdown run with 3:15 left in the quarter. Collins’ PAT capped a five-play, 57-yards drive and gave South Panola its first lead of the game 14-13.

Starkville retook the lead 19-14 in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard pass with 11:49 left in the game, but the two-point attempt failed as Ephraim “Chevron” Kitchen broke up the pass.
South Panola retook the lead for good on a 32-yard pass from Pogue to Kitchen with 8:58 left to cap a nine-play 80-yard drive. Pogue ran in the two-point conversion for the 22-19 lead.

Starkville then fumbled an onside kick and South Panola’s Anfernee Benson recoverd on the Starkville 48, but the Tigers could not convert.

After Starkville regained possession, they were forced to puntwhen South Panola’s Cole Rotenberry picked up the ball on the first hop and ran 62-yards for a touchdown. Collins’ kick gave the Tigers a 29-19 lead with 3:23 left in the game.

Starkville was not finished as they started on the 50 and on one rush and six passing plays, scored on a 12-yard pass with 2:15 left in the game. The extra point was good to cut the Tiger lead to 29-26.

Starkville was trying to get possesion in the last two minutes, but on a halfback pass, Darrell Henderson found Cole Rotenberry on a 45-yard pass with 1:52 left in the game. Collins’ PAT gave the Tigers a 36-26 lead.

“It feels good to come back my senior year and get to go to the state championship,” Henderson said. “In the first half we were beating ourselves but we came out after halftime and played our game. The defense is good and they help us out every week. We knew Starkville was going to give us a good game but they hadn’t really played anyone. We were really their first matchup.”
Quarterback Pogue said, “In the first half we had a few miscues and we weren’t able to score. We came out in the second half and everybody played a heck of a game. Defense kept us in it and we started making plays. I don’t care what Starkville was. I was sick and tired of hearing about Starkville this and Starkville that. They were good and deserved to be No. 1 but now it’s South Panola and don’t ever count us out.”

The passing game failed Starkville in that last minute. With 47 seconds left in the game, they turned the ball over on downs for the last time and South Panola took a knee to run out the clock.

South Panola garnered 432 total yards including 267 passing and 165 rushing.

Market was the leading receiver with 129 yards on seven receptions and one touchdown, followed by Rotenberry with four receptions, 62 yards and two touchdowns. Kitchen had 32 yards on one reception and one touchdown.

Porter led the defense with five tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack, followed by Desmond Lester with four tackles and one sack.

Before John Ellis left the game with a season-ending knee injury, he had five tackles.
Turner Rotenberry intercepted his seventh pass of the season with 11:11 left in the second quarter.

South Panola will make its 15th trip to the state championship Friday against reigning 6A state champion Oak Grove who won over Brandon 35-36 after Brandon missed a field goal as time expired.

The game will be played at 7 p.m. in Davis Wade Stadium on the campus of Mississippi State University.