SP holds off determined Clarksdale squad 19-14
By Brad Greer
In what head coach Ricky Woods described as ‘their best game of the season’ the South Panola Tigers jumped out to a 19-0 lead before holding off a gritty Clarksdale fourth quarter rally to earn a 19-14 victory in its home opener at Robert H. Dunlap Stadium.
South Panola improved its record to 3-1 on the year while Clarksdale fell to 1-3.
“Overall, I think we played our best ball game of the year. Our defense was outstanding and even though we turned the ball over four times, our offense moved the ball pretty good. I feel like we mixed up the offensive game well and it was good to get (quarterback) Patrick Shegog back into the lineup. There is a lot of football left to be played so we’re just trying to work and get better every week and I saw a lot of improvement tonight against a solid ball team in Clarksdale,” said Woods.
South Panola seemed to have everything in hand leading 19-0 after three quarters but Clarksdale was not ready to give in as the Wildcats avoided the shutout on a two-yard scoring run with 8:36 left to play.
The Wildcats closed the margin to 19-14 with 1:21 remaining by capitalizing on a South Panola turnover to score on a 23-yard pass play.
After forcing South Panola to punt, Clarksdale had one final gasp at victory beginning on its own 15-yard line with nine seconds left only to have a flea flicker fall on deaf ears on the game’s final play.
In a first half dominated by South Panola, the Tigers took a 13-0 lead into the lockerroom on Shegog’s one-yard run with 7:01 left in the second quarter followed by a Kanoda Lewis 44-yard touchdown pass from Shegog at the 1:44 mark.
South Panola’s initial scoring drive covered 69 yards on seven plays as Shegog converted a second-and-20 from his own 21 with a 64-yard pass completion to Jordan Strong down to the Wildcat 15. Four plays later, Shegog called his own number and scored on a third-and-one followed by Blaine Ware‘s PAT.
The Tiger defense held Clarksdale to 92 yards of total offense in the first half while gaining 224 yards of its own despite six penalties for 60 yards.
South Panola received the opening kickoff and marched 78 yards on eight plays to extend its lead to 19-0 on Shegog’s three-yard pass to Barry Flowers with Ware’s PAT being blocked.
Two key plays highlighted the drive on Morris House’ 40-yard end around to the Wildcat 25. Two plays later, Quin Bradford broke three tackles on a hard earned 11 yard gain.
Bradford led the South Panola rushing attack with 21 carries for 85 yards. The Tigers rolled up 198 yards on 40 carries. House followed Bradford in the rushing category with 58 yards on five carries. Lewis added eight carries for 31 yards to go along with three catches for 56 yards.
Shegog finished the night 10-of-15 passing for 169 yards and three interceptions. Strong led the Tiger receiving unit with four catches 91 yards. Flowers chipped in with two catches for 11 yards. John Railey registered one catch for eight yards.
The South Panola defense which limited Clarksdale to 75 yards rushing on the night, was led by Jaqualin Gillespie with eight tackles. Alexander Jordan followed with five stops.
Wade Thornton, Robert Hentz, House and Jameel Thompson added four tackles each. Hentz and House recovered a fumble while Thompson recorded a big quarterback sack to stop a Clarksdale drive on the Tiger 21-yard line. C. J Hardrick also registered a quarterback sack.
Derrick Cunningham, Caleb Grayer, Strong and Lakendrick Willingham all contributed with three stops. Grayer also broke up two passes from his defensive back position. Willingham and Quin Benson were each credited with one forced fumble.
A. J. Norwood punted three times for a 35.7 average.
South Panola hosts Memphis University School Friday with kickoff at 7 p.m.