Tony Tsoukalas & Sarah Moomaw / The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star
Quitman on a roll
Since losing to Taylorsville in Week 4 of the regular season, the Quitman Panthers have been a completely different team.
Now, on a six-game winning streak, Quitman (6-4, 5-0) will host Raymond (4-7, 1-3) in the opening round of the MSHAA Class 4A playoffs.
Despite the Panthers’ obvious advantage on the stat sheet, don’t expect them to back down Friday night against the Rangers.
“I think my kids went about this the way we were supposed to this week,” Quitman head coach Steven Bynum said. “We kind of started preaching that last week, because we were in the same boat last week against Northeast Lauderdale. We had already clinched the division, but it meant a lot to win. We kind of battled that last week, so we will be ready and focussed this week.”
Quitman blew past the Trojans using a valiant special teams effort en route to a 45-7 win. Now, with the Panthers playing their best football all season, Bynum said he doesn’t expect them to slow down anytime soon.
“Our kids kind of woke up as a team,” Bynum said. “Nobody is just going to roll over and give it to us because our name is Quitman. We are going to have to work for every game we play in. We have kind of went about it in a blue-collar way.”
Union wants to be elite
A loss against rival Lake in Week 10 of the regular season eliminated Union’s chance of a region championship the season. Still, the Yellowjackets are ready to prove they belong among the MSHAA Class 2A elite.
Friday night, they will get their chance as they host Puckett in the first round of the 2A playoffs. Union (7-4, 4-1) earned the No. 2 seed in Region 5-2A while Puckett (5-5, 3-2) comes in as the No. 3 seed in Region 6-2A.
“They have good team speed and have some guys that run real well,” Union head coach Brad Breland said of Puckett. “They can spread the ball out real well and get the ball to different people.”
Because of the Wolves versatility on offense, Breland said his defense will have to be on top of its game in order to limit Puckett. After allowing 40 points to Lake two weeks ago, Union rebounded holding Newton to only 12 points last week.
“We are going to have to make sure we are lined up right,” Breland said. “If we can do that and do what we are supposed to do, I feel like we will be in good shape.”
Breland said his team worked this week to play its game and prevent breakdowns on both sides of the ball.
“Practice has gone well,” Breland said. “Offensively, we still need to execute better. Defensively, we practiced pretty well this week.”
Wildcats looking at history
Kemper County has never won a playoff game — ever. First-year head coach Chris Jones hopes this is the year that will all change.
The Wildcats are 8-3 on the season heading into the MHSAA Class 3A tournament, as are the O'Bannon Greenwaves.
“I feel good about it,” Jones said. “I think they are a good team. I think we're a good team also. I think this is the year we become one of the first teams in the history of Kemper to win a playoff game.”
Due to the distance, the two schools weren't able to share film so Jones relied on scouting reports from other coaches for preparation, but feels confident..
“They like to run the ball a lot,” he said. “I heard they've got some athletes, so it's going to be a good match up.”
This is O'Bannon's first season in 3A, having moved up from 2A. Jones said he thinks that'll be an advantage for the Wildcats as the top teams in their divison are also the top of the class.
Additionally, he knows his guys can finish 48 minutes strong. Last week against Winona, they pulled out the win, 16-10, with a fourth quarter score and great play on all sides of the ball.
“Defense played great. Hats off to defense, hopefully we can continue that this Friday,” Jones said. “When it comes this time, you got to have a great game and good defense so hopefully we get both of those.”
Tiptoeing Tigers on the loose
Southeast Lauderdale snuck into the MSHAA Class 3A playoffs with a Week 11 win over Raleigh.
“I'll be truthful, we really didn't deserve to win on the fact that we turned the ball over seven times,” head coach Charles Black said. “We played a lot better defense last week. We moved the ball pretty well and actually scored some points.”
Black is hoping the playoffs will give his team the spark they've been lacking most of the season, but its schedule didn't help the case.
Morton was 5-0 in district play. Black said on paper it is a similar team to Philadelphia, which routed the Tigers during a three week scoring drought, but said the Panthers' linemen aren't as big.
“They are really good at throwing the ball and they played their best game this past Friday night,” Black said. “We're facing a team that we faced [in the past].”
This week, he said, they've been working on ball security and holding on it at all times. Winning the turnover battle is huge, especially this time of year, Black said.
He also hopes to see a similar effort on running the ball and by the defense as last week.
“We ran the ball a lot more this past Friday night and I feel like if we can run the ball pretty decent Friday night, and I think we can against Morton, then we can throw when we want to throw,” Black said.
West back where it belongs
The West Lauderdale Knights are a completely different team from last year and in the playoffs for the first time in three years.
“It's been a while,” head coach Stan McCain said. “We've had a good year so far and we'll see how long we can stay in it.”
Last week, they rallied against Kosciusko in the second half but it wasn't enough, dropping the final regular season game, 28-17. The loss didn't put them out of the playoffs as they finished the season 7-4, 3-2.
Last season, the Knights went 2-8 and missed the playoffs. After moving to the Class 4A North, they are well on the road to success.
“We worked hard,” McCain said. “We've had some good fortune, Lord has really blessed us this year … our guys keep playing and that's the biggest attribute we got.”
The season could continue if they can get through a 6-5 Cleveland team. A win would bring the postseason home to Collinsville next week. For that to happen, West will need to be on its toes.
“They do something offensively that we're not use to,” McCain said. “We've tried to prepare our guys for that and hopefully we can have a good game.”
The Knights should get John Williams back form an ankle injury, but quarterback Tyler Turnage is still out with a broken collarbone.
Philly eyeing top prize
Philadelphia only has one loss this season and it was in an early season, state championship preview to Louisville. This week, the Tornadoes will begin the journey to the MSHAA Class 3A title game when they host Velma Jackson in the first round.
“Our goal is a state championship, always is, always will be,” Philly head coach Teddy Dyess said. “That's not going to change. We're going to take it one step at a time at this point.”
To get to a perfect 5-0 in the the district and win a district title for the sixth time in seven years, Philly had to get through Choctaw County last week. The Tornadoes did so with ease, taking a 41-6 win.
This season, they've outscored their opponents 473-54.
Dyess said the Falcons are coming in banged up but their speed will be intact.
“They've got a solid ball team but have been hit hard by injuries,” he said. “We're fortunate to be going into the playoffs healthy. I feel good about that.”
Last week, the Tornadoes were tested on making adjustments. Dyess said he liked what he saw on defense and by his quarterback Romon Gray. He hopes the same will take place on Friday.
“Great team speed out of Velma Jackson and very similar defensively,” Dyess said. “Offensively, we probably throw the ball around better than they do.”