Tigers to meet old nemesis Madison Central
By Brad Greer
With all due respect to the upcoming holiday season, tonight starts the most wonderful time of the year for high school football fans as the big boys of Class 6A kick off first round playoff action.
The first order of business will be the 9-3 South Panola Tigers making the two-hour trip down I-55 to tangle with 9-2 Madison Central in a 7 p.m kickoff.
After garnering a third place finish in District 1, this will be this first time since 1999 South Panola will open the playoffs as the visiting team.
Despite leading the overall series 11-4, South Panola will look to snap a two-game losing streak to Madison Central. The Jaguars edged South Panola 21-19 in their last meeting. In 2015, the Jaguars snapped South Panola’s 26-game winning streak with a shocking 14-8 victory in the first round of the 6A playoffs.
If Madison Central wants to advance to the second round this year, they must find a way to get past a salty Tiger defense that hasn’t given up an offensive touchdown in its last three outings.
South Panola is led on defense by sophomore linebacker Jaqualin Gillespie with 86 tackles. Senior defensive tackle Robert Hentz follows with 85 stops to go along with a team leading 10 quarterback sacks.
Others to watch for on the Tiger defense include Wade Thornton, (72 tackles, 13 tackle-for-loss) Quin Benson, (five quarterback sacks) and defensive backs Morris House (six interceptions, 15 pass break ups) and Caleb Grayer (18 pass break ups).
On offense, South Panola is averaging 206 yards rushing and 177 yards passing per game while putting up 25 points a game.
Leading the way is quarterback Patrick Shegog. The senior has amassed 2,885 in total yardage and 30 touchdowns to his credit. Shegog on the season has thrown for 1,964 yards and 19 touchdowns while rushing for 921 yards and 11 scores.
Running backs Quin Bradford (131-676 yards, 5 TD’s) and Derrick Cunningham (90-527 4 TD’S) join Shegog in the backfield.
The Tigers have plenty of options to choose from when going to the air as a trio of receivers have caught 30 of more passes on the year.
Senior John Railey leads the way with 36 receptions for 557 yards and five touchdowns. Kanoda Lewis (32- 490 4 TD’s) and Barry Flowers (33-396 6TD’s) round out the receiving corps. Atarie Bobo has become a valuable asset lately as the sophomore reeled in six catches for 95 yards last week in the Tigers 48-3 rout of Desoto Central.
Madison Central enters the playoffs as the No.2 seed in Region 2-6A behind district champion Starkville. The Jags only losses this year have been to No. 1 ranked Pearl (14-7) and Starkville (14-6).
Look for the Jaguars to use the two quarterback system of Jimmy Holiday and J.D. Hull. Holiday on the year has thrown for 665 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 423 yards and seven touchdowns.
Cam White (6’1”-194) leads Madison Central in rushing with 880 yard and eight touchdowns. Cedric Beal (5’9”-197) is second on the team with 705 yards and six TD’s. Myles Hobson (6’2”-165) and Hunter Blaylock (6’5”-195) are the main receiving threats.
The Jaguars are led on defense by linebackers Kirkland Trahan, Truett Bourne and Kenneth Ndebele. Cornerback Shacobia Luckett leads the team with four interceptions while free safety Peyton Rey is second on the squad with 75 tackles.
In other playoff games involving district teams will be Horn Lake hosting Northwest Rankin, Southaven travels to Starkville while Tupelo hosts Warren Central.
The winner of the South Panola/Madison Central game will face the Tupelo/Warren Central winner in round two of the playoffs next week.