October 9, 2009 9:30:00 AM
It didn''t take the Nick Parker-led South Panola High School football team long to convince Columbus Falcons why it remains one of the most high-profile programs in the Magnolia State.
The Tigers, ranked No. 3 in this week''s Clarion-Ledger Super 10 rankings and fresh off a 34-6 dismantling of then-No. 4 Olive Branch last Friday, scored early and often against the Falcons en route to a 53-7 win here Thursday evening.
"We got beat by as good a football team as there is in the state of Mississippi," Columbus head coach Bubba Davis said. "Their winning streak may have been broken (last year by Meridian in the Class 5A title game) and they may not be the top-ranked team in the state at the moment, but they sure took it to us, that''s for sure."
Parker, a preseason Dandy Dozen pick at running back who rushed for 2,500 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, carried the ball but six times for 113 yards and scored three touchdowns - all in the first half. His first carry on the game''s initial play from scrimmage netted him 75 yards and gave the Tigers a quick 6-0 lead. He added a 14-yard touchdown run and a 9-yard score before retiring to the sidelines.
Lance Pogue, the Tigers'' third-year coach, said he rested his star running back for good reason.
"We really didn''t need him that much tonight," Pogue said. "He played as much as necessary, but I can assure you he''ll have some big opportunities down the road."
The first half script for both teams remained fairly constant - Columbus (1-6, 0-3) went three-and-out and South Panola (6-1, 3-0) responded with a touchdown.
Up 7-0 thanks to Parker''s game-opening dash and Nolan Parker''s extra point, the Tigers marched 78 yards on their second possession. A Lee Self to Nicklos Brassell pass-run play that covered 49 yards set the Tigers up at the Columbus 25. Senior Dominique Carother capped the three play drive with a 25-yard touchdown run. Parker then added his second point-after kick for a 14-0 lead with 9 minutes, 35 seconds left in the first quarter.
Moments later, a short Columbus punt set the Tigers up at the Falcons'' 29. Parker was called upon four straight times, the last of which covered 14 yards. Nolan Parker''s kick was good and the Tigers owned a 21-0 advantage with 5:55 left in the first quarter.
A South Panola fumble recovery gave the Tigers possession near midfield on their fourth possession and it took Pogue''s troops three plays to score their fourth touchdown. A 46-yard Self to Brassell strike with 2:55 left in the first quarter made it 27-0, but South Panola failed to get the extra point.
Following the Falcons'' fourth three-and-out, a Dennis Draper punt return, coupled with a Columbus penalty, gave the Tigers excellent field position at the Columbus 32, and Carother bulled his way in from 6 yards out to cap the five-play march barely two minutes into the second quarter. Parker''s kick made it 34-0.
Down five touchdowns, Columbus put together an impressive yet unproductive drive that started at its 18 but ended at the Tigers 22 on a fumble recovery by South Panola. In between, Davis'' offense picked up its initial first down of the game with a little more than nine minutes left in the second quarter. It added two more before the Tigers'' Devin Clark pounced on the loose football at the South Panola 29.
Four plays later, three of which were runs by Qyundairs Griffin that accounted for 62 yards, Parker sprinted in from 9 yards out and Nolan Parker added the point after for a 41-0 lead.
Undaunted, Columbus tallied its touchdown when sophomore Damian Baker carried four straight times for 69 yards, the last of which was good for 51 yards straight up the middle with 1:47 left before halftime. Avery Ford added the point after to account for the 41-7 halftime score.
South Panola, which had its 89-game winning streak snapped by Meridian in last year''s 5A state championship game, responded with a six-play, 57-yard march. The Falcons stopped the Tigers for the first time on a quarterback sack at the 16-yard line on the final play of the first half.
Buoyed by their defensive stand just before half, the Falcons forced the first Tigers punt of the game after the initial possession of the second half.
But the Tigers reverted back to their first-half antics on their next possession, as Self hooked up with tight end Taylor Rotenberry on a 33-yard touchdown toss to up the count to 47-7 and finish a three-play 49-yard drive with 4:02 left in the third quarter. Substitute kicker Martez Wallace''s point after was no good.
Yet another Columbus fumble set South Panola up at its 39 late in the third quarter and the Tigers put together a 19-play, 61-yard drive that took a little more than nine minutes off the clock. Johnathan Bownes grabbed scoring honors this time from 2 yards out to account for the 53-7 final.
Despite the score, Pogue said both teams had one thing in common.
"We''re young and getting better," Pogue said, "and Columbus is also a young team which is improving every week, and I''m confident coach Davis will get this program turned around here very soon."
Davis didn''t blame the loss on his squad''s youthfulness, but he said he was somewhat disappointed in the outcome.
"I was disappointed in how we played," said Davis. "We''re a better football team than we showed tonight, and this is the first game where we really didn''t play up to our capabilities. But I''ll take the blame for that and now we''re going to see if I can do a better job of coaching to help us get back on track to where we were before tonight.
"The kids and the coaches have got too much invested and they''ve worked too hard, so I know they''re disappointed in the outcome, too. Now we have to have a good week of practice and load up for our trip to DeSoto Central."
Baker paced Columbus with 101 yards rushing on 16 carries, while Randy Brown had 134 yards on seven returns.