Cougars fulfill goals brick by brick
By Ike House
The Cougars have done something that they have not done since entering the playoff system and that is win a district championship.
Carl Diffee and Marc Cobb have been at North Panola since 2012 when they came in under former head coach Derek King. In those three years they turned around a team that had a couple of one win seasons. In their first year together they won five games after beginning their tenure losing their first three games.
Then they ripped off five games in a row and kept themselves in the playoff race but after making the playoffs they lost in a big game against Water Valley.
The next season they went over .500 for the first time in years. The next year, 2013, they could not get out of third place, finishing behind Charleston and Water Valley.
In 2014 they finished in a similar fashion with a regular season record and the exact same record in the district behind Water Valley and Charleston ending their season in the first round to Aberdeen.
The year 2015 went downhill for the Cougars as they won only five games but made the playoffs. They finished fourth in the district behind M.S. Palmer, Charleston and Water Valley.
The playoffs were not the best to the Cougars as they lost a close overtime game to Cleveland East Side. The next season would start the reign of Diffee as the new head coach of North Panola. The Cougars had their best season since 1989 as they went 10-2.
The Cougars got closer to the top of the district finishing second behind Charleston as they defeated Water Valley for the first time in over 27 years. The Cougars made the playoffs but lost in the second round to Velma Jackson.
This season the Cougars had a chip on the shoulder going 10-0 and only giving up over 14 points twice. The Cougars averaged under seven points on the season. The defense was given the name “Jackboys” and have lived up to the hype and balanced off this high power offense. The Cougars have prided themselves on taking the ball away with 15 interceptions, five fumble recoveries, four blocked punts and a safety.
“The ball is the program and we pride ourselves on taking the ball away. ‘Jackboys’ originated this summer during 7-on-7 camps whenever we get a turnover,” Cobb said. “Jackboy refers to a North Panola defensive player that is relentless about getting the ball back” and it just fits what we want to be defensively.”
The Cougars are proud to win their first title and the seniors are happy they helped make history. This is also the biggest milestone for Diffee since he has been named head coach.
“It’s very rewarding to see the happiness on our kids and fans faces,” Diffee said “They have worked so hard and done things the right way and I am so proud of our guys and blessed to be a part of them.”
The Cougars started their journey after losing in the playoffs last season but everything got on track in the spring with a long offseason. The Cougars were determined to prove their worth especially with Charleston moving out of the district everything was up for grabs.
“Well a lot of schools treat spring as an install and they try to figure out their identity,” Diffee said. “We knew who we were going into spring and hit the ground running and that has allowed us to advance offensively and defensively much farther into our schemes.”
The fans have been a 12th man every where the Cougars have been this season. The fans of North Panola have been some of the best fans in high school football bringing more fans from home at every game they have traveled to.
The fans have been such a big support of the Cougars and pushing them to make their season even better with the first two games at home.
The Cougars are faced with Aberdeen this Friday and upon a win, the Cougars will face the Charleston Tigers. The Cougar fans have wanted that matchup all season and they feel like they can help the Cougars get the win.
“It says a lot about their desire to have something to be proud of,” Diffee said. “It also says a lot about our brand and the way our kids play.”
The Cougars are finally district champs and proud to say it.