Tigers open season with 21-15 win

Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Defense makes stand on fourth-and-goal

By Jeremy Weldon

TUPELO – South Panola gave up yardage to Tupelo on the ground and through the air for 46 of the game’s 48 minutes Friday night before stopping the Chargers six yards from their goal line with a stellar defensive stand, earning the Tigers a win in the season opener for both teams.

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“It was sloppy, but we never quit and kept playing,” said head coach Rickey Woods. “I thought some guys were tense and didn’t play well, but we’re going to get better.”

The Tigers were down  9-7 at halftime, and 15-7 after three quarters, but rallied with two touchdowns in the last period to take a six point lead. The Chargers had last possession and drove 63 yards in 13 plays before the Tigers defense forced an incomplete pass on fourth-and-six and took over on downs with 1:38 left.

Woods told the Tupelo newspaper he closed his eyes on the fourth down play. “I’ll have to watch it on film,” he said. SP running back Janari Dean sealed the win with a first down run two plays later as the game clock ran out.

South Panola and Tupelo are no longer in the same 6A district with the TIgers’ move to District 2 this season, but the game had the atmosphere the rivalry usually produces. The Charger fans turned out well and the Tigers had several hundred fans make the road trip.

Dean was the Tigers’ workhorse as expected, rushing 21 times for 232 yards. He scored the game’s first touchdown with a 51-yard run and again early in the fourth on a 16-yard run. He ran in the two-point conversion that tied the game 15-15.

The Chargers scored a touchdown in the second quarter on a 62-yard run by David Hayes. The running back broke through the line for a good gain before Tiger defenders appeared to tackle him, but game officials didn’t blow the play dead and he scampered another 45 yards for the score. A referee said later the runner was flipped, but landed on a player and never touched the ground.

Tupelo missed their PAT attempt on that touchdown, but Tanner Goggans recovered to kick a 19-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give the Chargers the eight-point lead at the intermission.

South Panola played better in the third quarter, but had one poor defensive series in which they were penalized nearly 50 yards and finally gave up a 19-yard touchdown, again to Hayes. The Tigers intercepted a pass in the endzone on the two-point try.

Tigers quarterback Anterrio Draper scored the go-ahead touchdown from one yard out before Tupelo got the ball for their last drive. Draper finished the game with 77 yards on eight carries.  He attempted three passes with no completions.

South Panola kicker Nathan Walls converted one of two PAT chances and punted three times for 103 yards, a 34.3 average.

Defensively, the Tigers were led by Jaqualin Gillespie with 20 tackles and an interception. Tra Norwood had 13 tackles, Jordan Milton had 11 tackles, Jaley Kirby was credited with 10, and Wes Morgan had eight.

For the Golden Wave, David Hayes had 213 yards on 32 carries, Jarrius McGinister gained 39 yards on six carries. Trip Wilson had four receptions for 49 yards and Jeyob Horn caught two passes for 21. Quarterback Jake Weir was 11-of-25 passing for 137 yards.

South Panola ran 38 plays, and Tupelo 77. Time of possession was 31 minutes for the Golden Wave and 17 for the Tigers.

“I think we are a better team than we showed tonight,” Woods said. “We had a lot of injuries on defense but it was a win. It was a good game, and we got lucky at the end.”

The Tigers will spend the week preparing for this Friday’s road game at Yazoo City High School. Woods said last week the Yazoo City game was one of the last additions to the schedule this summer. “We needed two more games and Cordova and Yazoo City called so that’s how we have them.”