By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
BATESVILLE – It took all 48 minutes, but the state’s top-ranked high school team opened the 2012 football season with a win.
South Panola never made it to the end zone, but senior Clayton Sibley kicked a field goal in each quarter Saturday night, the final one from 18 yards away as time expired on a 12-10 win against West Point.
“The expectation is there on defense,” West Point coach Chris Chambless said. “We expect them to make plays.”
South Panola drove 63 yards on 11 plays to end the game, the big play a 15-yard pass to Darrell Henderson on fourth-and-9. Ed Brown nearly got to Tigers quarterback Rip Kirk but the play put the ball to the 15. The drive consumed the remainder of the 4:17 left to play.
“When the money was on the line, our offense took us down the field,” Panola coach Lance Pogue said.
West Point made its case with a 15-play, 86-yard drive that Roger Thomas closed by bullying his way into the end zone from five yards out on a fourth-and-2.
The Green Wave (0-1) went for it all and Aeris Williams nearly gave it to them, plunging in on a two-point conversion for a 10-9 lead with 4 minutes, 22 seconds to play. Williams had 20 carries for 102 yards.
“That last drive told me a lot about our team,” Chambless said. “A lot of heart, a lot of want-to.”
Sibley also had makes from 20, 33 and 25 yards away.
“Our offense did such a great job on that last drive. I just can’t talk enough about my field goal unit,” Sibley said.
West Point’s only points of the first half came on a second-quarter safety.
South Panola (1-0) saw a chance to score before the half erased on a fourth-and-1. Kirk tried to stretch the ball and had it stripped and recovered by West Point linebacker Antreon Bennett at the Green Wave 36.
West Point held on another fourth-and-1 in the third. Top prospect Tony Conner returned an Eric Lemus punt 35 yards to the 8-yard line. The Green Wave gave up two more yards and the Tigers had to settle for Sibley’s third field goal.