NP puts undefeated season on line against Charleston

Published 5:31 pm Thursday, October 6, 2016

North Panola’s Sylvonta Oliver, No. 7, runs behind teammate Jamal Leverson against M. S. Palmer last Friday. The Cougars travel to take on Charleston tonight at 7 p.m. The Panolian photo by Ike House

North Panola’s Sylvonta Oliver, No. 7, runs behind teammate Jamal Leverson against M. S. Palmer last Friday. The Cougars travel to take on Charleston tonight at 7 p.m.
The Panolian photo by Ike House

NP puts undefeated season on line against Charleston

By Ike House
The North Panola and Charleston matchup is always a big game in 3A but this week according to the Clarion-Ledger, they are the number one game in the state.
Even though the Cougars are undefeated (7-0) they have a tough task in front of them having to travel to Charleston tonight. The Cougars not only put their undefeated record on the line but they are also battling to overcome a 29-year drought against this team.
With the way the Cougars are playing this season, the fans feel like this is their year.
“Our focus still remains the same in where we want to come out and be 1-0 everyday this week,” Cougar head coach Carl Diffee said. “We feel like if it’s not broke then don’t fix it.”
The Cougars defensive line has been a huge part of their success being selected for the players of the week, three weeks in a row. They have caused chaos in the opponents’ backfields this season and caused plenty of turnovers. This week they face a team with a different style on offense with a heavy run game. The defense as a unit will have to stop the run game and play at the line of scrimmage.
“They (Charleston) are the model of consistency and every year they just take a jersey off of one player and stick it on another,” Diffee said. “They always have good running backs following behind an even better offensive line and an athlete at quarterback that can make plays.”
North Panola has its own weapons including one special athlete in Sylvonta Oliver. Oliver has excelled in all three phases of the game. He has accumulated 33 rushing yards and one touchdown, 281 receiving yards and four touchdowns. On special teams Oliver has 168 kick return yards and two touchdowns, 203 punt return yards and a touchdown. On defense he has a forced fumble, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, a pick six (interception) and 16 tackles. He totaled out at 755 all-purpose yards and nine total touchdowns through six games.
“You never want to put all of your eggs in one basket but he is a breakout player,” Diffee said, “I feel like he is the best player in 3A and I don’t think any player in the state can do as much as he can do for us.”
Another big player for the Cougars this year has been David Burton. He has played mostly on defense getting turnovers in back-to-back weeks against O’Bannon, Manassas and Palmer.
Burton has been put in a couple of positions on offense but his biggest contribution has been on special teams. He is the Cougars’ punter and has been able to flip the field for them and put their defense in some great field position.
“He flips the field on punt and its nice to know that a guy can put the ball down the field,” Diffee said. “We’ve won the field position battle in every game this year and I would like to see how many teams have actually driven the field on us.”
Capitalizing on big plays is the key this week in order for the Cougars to win against this formidable foe.
Big plays are factors in every game but the past undisputed north champion Charleston team is one of those teams that in order to come out the victor, the other teams have to get the chunk plays and be able to convert in the big moments.
Charleston has faltered twice this year against teams from bigger divisions, 4A Senatobia and Lafayette. Charleston did defeat 6A Olive Branch.
“We trust our guys to make those plays and when we put the ball in the air those are 50/50 balls that our guys can come down with,” Diffee said “I don’t think the stage is too big for our guys.”
This game between the Cougars and Charleston could possibly determine the top two teams in the district if the Cougars take down Water Valley next week and if North Panola holds off Independence October 21.
The Cougars will kickoff at 7 p.m. tonight in Charleston to face the 5-2 Tigers.

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