By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BATESVILLE – To borrow from the late author and humorist Mark Twain: “The death of South Panola was greatly exaggerated.”
The unranked Tigers looked as powerful as ever Friday night in their crushing 56-14 Division 1-6A victory against the visiting Tupelo Golden Wave.
South Panola (5-3, 3-1), behind running back/quarterback Antonio Connor, lined up in power formations with a bevy of backs and an unbalanced line and moved up and down the field against Tupelo (3-4, 2-2), piling up nearly 500 yards – 432 rushing – in total offense.
“Blocking and tackling usually wins football games,” a frustrated Tupelo coach David Bradberry said. “All those guys can run, but they get all those yards because of the way they block.”
Connor rushed for 154 yards on 21 carries and scored four touchdowns, three in the first half, to help give the Tigers a commanding 35-7 halftime lead. He capped South Panola’s opening drive with his 32-yard scamper off right tackle. He added two 1-yard TD runs and a 26-yard score.
Connor also helped his team’s cause in the kicking game. His 25-yard punt return to the Tupelo 35-yard line late in the first quarter set up an eventual 2-yard score by tailback Marcus Dixon.
South Panola scored its fifth first-half touchdown on a 10-yard pass from Tevis Flowers to Tyler Beard.
‘We have a lot of talent’
“We all pulled together tonight,” Flowers said. “We just keep pounding and pounding. We have a lot of talent.”
Tupelo was held to minus 5 yards total offense and suffered two fumbles in the first half, with tailback Ashton Shumpert starting at quarterback.
The Golden Wave scored its first touchdown in the second quarter when Matt McIntosh returned a kickoff 99 yards to cut the Tigers’ lead to 21-7.
The Tigers scored three times in the second half, once on Connor’s second 1-yard run. They added scores on a 15-yard pass to Ron Taylor from Darryl Henderson and a 28-yard run by Tavian Bibbs.
Tupelo, which finished with 200 yards total offense, scored its second touchdown on a 1-yard run by Tenerious Montgomery. A 44-yard pass from Thomas Harris to McIntosh put the ball at the South Panola 1.
“I thought Thomas Harris threw some good passes and we had a couple of good runs,” Bradberry said.