By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
STARKVILLE – The top-ranked team in the state rolled into Starkville on Friday night in need of no help. But Starkville was in a giving mood on Halloween weekend and South Panola enjoyed quite a treat.
The defending Class 6A champions scored 21 points off three Jacket turnovers in the first half and never looked back on the way to a 47-13 victory.
South Panola moved to 10-0 on the year and 6-0 in Division 1-6A in easy fashion.
“That’s what they do so well and they make it hurt,” said Starkville head coach Jamie Mitchell. “We’ve been so good with the turnover ratio really all year long. But those three early tonight took us out of what we wanted to do.”
South Panola ran just three offensive plays in the first five minutes of action and still jumped to a 20-0 lead. Senior tailback Qyen Griffin went 72 yards for a score on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage.
Then the Jackets fumbled the ball twice on their next two series, and one of those was returned 31 yards for a score by South Panola’s Kieddrick Flowers.
“They just put so much pressure on you and they are gonna blow it open when they get those kind of chances,” said Mitchell. “Then you are behind and you are forced to throw. We would have loved to run the ball more to stay in the game. But it makes it tough when you get in a early hole like that.”
Griffin had 185 rushing yards and two scores in the first half alone. He finished with 294 yards on just 19 carries and three touchdowns.
Lining up in the “wildcat” formation, senior and Mississippi State commitment Kendrick Market also threw for a pair of touchdowns in the first half for the Tigers.
The Jackets got their lone offensive touchdown in the fourth quarter on Preston Baker’s 28-yard scamper for a touchdown. And late in the first half, Starkville’s Stanley Childs returned an interception 15 yards for a score, one of the Tigers’ rare mistakes on the night.
Starkville will now enter the final week needing a little help to make the postseason. The Jackets need a win over Columbus on Friday and also need Olive Branch to knock off Tupelo.
But Mitchell said their focus is on getting a win and let the chips fall where they may.
“We must get a win and then get a little help,” said Mitchell. “This one is behind us quickly. But we have to take care of us first and not worry about what other teams are doing.”