Coaches: Meridian capable of toppling Panola|[12/9/2005]
Published 12:00 am Friday, December 9, 2005
Two local coaches with plenty of experience facing tonight’s Class 5A state championship teams said South Panola should beat Meridian tonight, but the Wildcats certainly are capable of dethroning the two-time defending 5A champion Tigers.
Curtis Brewer, whose Warren Central Vikings were beaten by Meridian 37-6 early in the season, said that Panola will be tough to beat, but beatable they are.
“The game is South Panola’s to lose. They are the defending state champions” Brewer said. “If Meridian plays up to their capabilities, though, they could beat Panola.”
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Vicksburg High coach Alonzo Stevens said he believes Panola will win because of the lack of a Meridian passing game.
“If you want to beat the University, you have to be able to run and throw,” said Stevens, whose team was beaten in the first round of the state playoffs. “(Panola) will put eight or nine in the box and make you throw the ball.”
South Panola, commonly referred to around the state as the University of South Panola, is riding a 44-game winning streak and carry the nation’s No. 7 ranking by USA Today. The Tigers last lost in the 5A state championship game in 2002 to Wayne County.
The state championship weekend begins today at 2:30 and will feature two games, then three more on Saturday. The games will be broadcast on Fox 35 (Vicksburg Video channel 11).
Meridian will counter with the size to match up with Panola as good as any team has. The Wildcats (11-3) also feature all-everything tailback Cordera Eason. The senior has rushed for more than 1,900 yards and was tapped as the Gatorade Mississippi Player of the Year.
“Meridian has the size to match up and they also have been challenged this year and come up short a few times.” Brewer said. “They are not the kind of team that will fold up under adversity.”
Meridian began the season ranked high among all state teams. Early season losses to Starkville (14-7) and Madison Central (17-14) had the Wildcats sitting at an unexpected 0-2. Meridian has won 11 of its last 12 games, however, including a thrilling 46-40 South State championship win over previously unbeaten Oak Grove.
South Panola is outscoring its opponents this year by an average of 33-10. Vicksburg had the Tigers within 20, but ended up falling, 41-7.
Stevens has the dubious honor of having lost to a pair of state championship contenders.
Hazlehurst is coming off a 22-19 upset of top-ranked South Pike in the Class 3A South State championship game.
Hazlehurst will play Charleston on Saturday morning.
Hazlehurst, a team that possesses size and speed, manhandled Vicksburg, 30-14.
“Charleston will try to keep Hazlehurt’s offense off the field,” Stevens said. “If Charleston can control the ball, Hazlehurst may be in a little trouble.”
In Class 2A, Lumberton will be shooting for its second straight state championship. Led by super running back Terry Grant, the Panthers are trying to complete a 15-0 season.
In Class 1A, a pair of undefeateds will go head-to-head when Mount Olive battles Ray Brooks from Benoit.
In Class 4A, Wayne County will be trying to win its third state championship in the last four years against West Point.