Cougars make school history advancing past second round
By Ike House
For the first time in school history the North Panola Cougars have advanced past the second round of the playoffs and lifted the “curse” that, according to fans, has been on the school’s sports since 1988.
“I am proud that our guys stepped up tonight,” head coach Carl Diffee said.
The Cougars have not beaten Charleston since 1988, but they made up for all those years with a convincing 38-18 win.
The Cougar defense was astounding and complemented by a run game that was huge — totaling 357 yards rushing.
“Those guys had big games for us tonight and they did their job,” Diffee said.
After Charleston’s offense stalled two drives in a row North Panola was ready to put the ball in the end zone and they did after Clarence Taylor set up the go-ahead play, busting open for 47 yards.
Kenneth Jefferson found favorite target Jamarvis Echols for a 23-yard strike. A two-point conversion by Chris Clark pushed the Cougars to an 8-0 lead.
Nor would they let up. After they got the ball back they cranked out an 11-play drive that led to their second score of the night.
Sylvonta Oliver got his shot to put the ball in the endzone after he ran in from 42 yards out.
Another two-point conversion put the Cougars up 16-0. The Cougars had all the momentum and Chris Clark added to it with a huge hit on the following kickoff.
That boost led to a interception by Tyler Shorter that gave him his seventh of the season.
But the Charleston defense held up and stopped the Cougars to give them the ball back on the 15. They drove the length of the field and scored from one yard out but missed on the two-point conversion, cutting the Cougars lead to 16-6 by halftime. After the half North Panola got the ball back and did something with it.
Oliver again found the end zone on a seven yard touchdown run. They got the two point conversion and went up 24-6, but Charleston’s Tigers would not stay down for long. They scored on the next drive from six yards out.
Again, Charleston’s two-point conversion attempt failed, but they had cut the Cougar’s lead in half, 24-12.
That did not stop the Cougars because on their next drive Oliver set up a big score with a 42-yard run. Jefferson found Echols again on a 18 yard fade route. They got their two point conversion and pushed their lead to 32-12.
At this point both teams were going back and forth but the Cougars had the upper hand in the end.
That did not stop Charleston from attempting a comeback, scoring on a four-yard run. They only trailed 32-18.
The Cougars were trying to run the clock but could not successfully keep the ball going down the field so it was on the defense to close out the game.
On the last drive of the game Shorter snagged another interception and this time he scored, returning it 43 yards for a touchdown.
“Tyler Shorter is an unbelievable athlete who can find the ball in the air,” Diffee said.
The Cougars’ final two-point conversion attempt failed, but by then they led 38-18. That’s what they needed to close out the game.
“The 12th man is real and the fans had a lot to do with winning a football game,” Diffee said. “That is 14 points I can count before the game starts because of the fans.”
Jefferson did not have his best night of the season but he finished 7 of 19 for 69 yards and two touchdowns.
He also had seven carries for 66 yards.
On the ground Oliver and Taylor shouldered the load, getting the bulk of the 357 yards.
Oliver finished with 13 carries for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor had 14 carries for 124 yards.
Jamarvis Echols had six catches for 68 yards and two touchdowns while Taylor had a catch for one yard.
On defense Demarco Smith had five tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack.
Other defenders were Malcolmn Lyons with five tackles and a tackle for a loss; Clark had four tackles and two tackles for a loss; Kylan Osborn had three tackles and a tackle for a loss; Marvin Adams had three tackles; Oliver, Tracy Davis, Antown Oliver and Quinterrious Walls had two tackles each; Quadarius Jones had two tackles and a tackle for a loss; Jarvis Echols had a tackle and a deflection; Norman Edwards had a tackle and a tackle for a loss; Shorter had two interceptions, a tackle, a deflection and a defensive touchdown and Jaylen Gipson had a tackle.
The Cougars will take on Choctaw County on Friday in Ackerman with kickoff beginning at 7p.m.
“My mindset as a coach as soon as the game was over, was what are we going to do this week to take care of Choctaw County,” Diffee said.