Arnold, Chrestman among first Hall of Fame inductees

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, February 6, 2020

Staff Report

Two names entrenched in the storied past of South Panola High School gridiron lore are Arnold and Chrestman.

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Coach Darrel Arnold and running back Jason Chrestman are both selections to the South Panola Athletics Hall of Fame inaugural class to be formally inducted Saturday, March 28 at a banquet at South Panola High School.

Their paths were joined as Arnold served on the school’s staff from 1957-1989 as coach, teacher, then principal in his final years before retirement.

Chrestman, undoubtedly one of the best athletes to ever walk the halls of South Panola, was enrolled there from 1967-1971.

It was no coincidence that Chrestman’s senior year during the 1970 season was Arnold’s first undefeated season. He had two, the 1970 season in the Delta Valley Conference and the 1977 season in the Chickasaw Conference.

Although nominated as football coach, Arnold was also a respected teacher and administrator who demanded discipline while earning respect whether on the field, in the classroom, or halls.

A noted athlete himself, he was recognized as a member of the Northwest Community College Athletic Hall of Fame (as well as the academic Hall of Fame), was conference Coach of the Year in six years from two conferences, as well as earning six championships between those two conferences.

Arnold was a graduate of Northwest and Arkansas State where he was a two-sport athlete. He played semi-pro baseball for several years after college.

Although his health has slowed his mobility, he can be found at most home football games and is always “tuned in” to away games. The new SP varsity locker room was recently dedicated to him.

Tailback Jason Chrestman scored 390 points during his junior and senior years (1970 and ‘71 seasons), leading the Delta Valley Conference in scoring both years.

According to statistics provided for his senior year, Chrestman had 187 carries for 1,452 rushing yards, caught 25 passes for 733 yards, handled 27 punt returns for 651 yards, and eight kickoff returns for 238 yards, giving him a total output of 3,074 yards.

He also had eight touchdowns called back.

Readers should know that Chrestman also had an impressive junior season being named Most Outstanding Back in the conference and named by Scholastic Coach Magazine to its All-America Team.

His senior season included Most Outstanding Athlete in Mississippi by America’s Foundation Board of Awards, 1971 Spirit of America Gold Award, Player of the Year by Prep Call, named All American as well as setting DVC scoring record of 212 points in 10 games and other conference, state and regional honors.

Chrestman’s football interest waned after one impressive season at NWCC, and he later joined his former coach David Bryan in the Panola County Sheriff’s Department where he retired after 29 years of service after his health declined.

Both Chrestman and Arnold will be honored along with eight other inductees including the late Bennie Abson and Robert Lightsey, Deshea Townsend, Whitney Kiihnl Hickman, Detris Whitten, Brenda Miles Gray, Pete Roberson and Chris McMinn.

The banquet will be held Saturday, March 28 at South Panola High School’s Mall at 6 p.m.

Tickets, $30, will be available through March 1 from Susan Jeffcoat at First Security Bank’s main office on Eureka Street, Mettesave Drugs on Hwy. 6 (278) East, both in Batesville, or mail to George Carlson, P.O. Box 749, Batesville, MS 38606. Tables are also being pre-sold.