By Tony Tsoukalas / Sports Writer
The Meridian Star
Up 13-0 right before halftime in the Aug. 24 meeting between Greene County and Quitman, Greene County head coach Johnny Ainsworth had the Panthers right where he wanted them.
That was until the Quitman offense turned on its jets, getting a touchdown with three minutes left in the half before rallying in the second half to come a way with a 27-20 win.
“I felt like that kind of put fuel to the fire with them,” Ainsworth said. “I thought we had the game where we needed it before halftime. That’s one of the big obstacles for us this week. We can’t hurt ourself. We’ve got to minimize mistakes.”
Tonight Quitman will make its second trip of the season to Leakesville, as the Panthers take on Greene County for a rematch with a South State championship on the line.
Despite winning the first meeting this season, Quitman head coach Steve Bynum knows it will take a stronger effort tonight to beat the Wildcats. One thing the Panthers will have in their corner is a little more time to prepare for the matchup than in week two.
“I remember going into that game, we had very little to work with,” Bynum said. “We had like a half. They played Perry Central the week before, and they had really kind of blew them out. They pulled all their starters after the first half, so I only had about half a game to work with. They had Neshoba on us, which was a ballgame to the bitter end.
“They threw some stuff at us that we weren't really prepared for. We kind of pride ourselves in being as prepared as possible. We have some game film on them now, we are just going to have to do a better job of preparing.”
Despite winning Region 5-4A Quitman will make the 74-mile trip to Greene County for a second time this season. Bynum, however does not hold a grudge, it was only last season his third place Quitman team got to host over a division winner.
“It's a bummer for us,” Bynum said. “But if you remember last year, it really benefited us. We were in the same boat as they are last year, a third seed playing a one seed. We were at home, and boy we thought it was the greatest thing. So hey, it is what it is. We are a prime example of how it worked for us and against us. We will just roll with it.”
If Quitman is to make its first state championship in school history, it will have more to worry about than a hostile crowd. The Panthers will be up against a talented backfield, headlined by Tyler McCann and Marko Franks.
The Wildcats will look to run a spread offense and take advantage of its speed with sweeps and short passes to get the ball in the hands of their speedy playmakers.
“They got two cats, (McCann) and (Franks), who are 4.4 40 guys,” Bynum said. “We are going to have to do a good job of keeping them locked up. If they get a step on us, we are going to be in trouble.”
Just two wins away from achieving their ultimate goal, Bynum has warned his players not to look ahead this week. However, after a tough game against Forrest County AHS last week, Quitman players nothing less than a battle from here on out.
“It's still one game at a time for us,” Bynum said. “We don't want to look ahead. This is going to be another battle that could go either way, so we have to focus on Greene County. We will take it one step at a time and just hope for the best.”