By Tony Tsoukalas / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
With South Panola tied 7-7 early in the third quarter against Meridian, running back Darrell Henderson took the ball on fourth-and-one from the Tigers' 29-yard line — from there, the 5-9, 175-pound junior broke free for 71 yards, bringing with him six points and a wave of momentum.
Following a Meridian three-and-out, Henderson found the end zone again, this time from 36 yards out to give the Tigers a 21-7 lead en route to a 34-14 victory Friday night.
Henderson finished the game with 278 yards and four touchdowns for South Panola, as he racked up most of his yards after contact, bouncing off Meridian defenders and then burning them in open space.
“I don't know what happened,” Meridian head coach Larry Weems said. “We'll have to watch the tape. If I knew, we would have stopped him. We will go back and see what we did wrong and try to make a change. Big plays hurts us. They made them, and we didn't.”
Meridian struck first on its opening drive, as the Wildcats went with no-huddle offense down the field for an 11-play, 64-yard drive capped off by a 24-yard touchdown pass from J'Mar Smith to Corey Davis.
After a three-and-out by Panola on the Tigers' first possession, Meridian drove back down the field. However, a dropped pass on third and six deep in Tiger territory followed by a missed 37-yard field goal attempt left the Wildcats with nothing to show for their efforts.
“We just left the points out there,” Weems said. “As good as they are, when you get something and you don't hit on it ?you just don't get many chances.”
Henderson would tie the game up for the Tigers in second quarter, as he broke by Wildcat safety C.J. Hampton and blazed 47-yards down the the field for his first score of the day.
After going down 21-7 in the third quarter, the Wildcats answered back with a nine-play, 55-yard drive, as Smith cut the score to 21-14 with a one-yard quarterback sneak with 6:40 left in the third.
However, the comeback effort would end there for the Wildcats, as South Panola quarterback Rip Kirk connected with tight end Walter Henry early in the fourth quarter on a 36-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers back up by two scores. An 18-yard run by Henderson later in the fourth gave him his fourth touchdown of the night.
Smith finished the day 11-for-24 with 116 yards and a touchdown for Meridian, while Austin Holt led the Wildcats on the ground with 13 carries for 53 yards. Davis hauled in five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown to lead Meridian in receiving.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was in attendance, as he took in the game from both the South Panola and Meridian sidelines.
“High school football in Mississippi has always been one of the best atmospheres in the high-school arena. Any time I get to watch high-school football in this state, it's always a great experience.”
South Panola (3-0) will travel to North Little Rock (Ark.) next week, while Meridian (2-1) plays host to Clinton.