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Panthers host Lawrence County

Brookhaven and Lawrence County, two surprise teams in Division6-4A this year, have made the best of a major rebuilding campaign.The Panthers (6-2, 3-1) and Cougars (6-3, 3-1) meet Friday night onKing Field, with the winner advancing to the Class 4A stateplayoffs as the division runners-up.

Lawrence County, coming off a 14-0 Class 4A state championshipseason in 1999, has steadily improved under the direction ofthird-year head coach Danny Adams. He has a 30-5 record in threeyears at the helm and was The Daily Leader’s 1999 Area FootballCoach of the Year.

Approximately 20 miles separate the two schools. Many residentsof both counties make the daily commute to places of employment.Others have relatives living in both counties.

Both teams have one division loss and Division 6-4A championMcComb administered the defeats. Brookhaven lost a 40-6 homecominggame to McComb two weeks ago while the Cougars lost 24-15 to theTigers Oct. 6, at McComb.

Adams said he anticipates an intense contest tomorrow night.”Usually, Brookhaven-Lawrence County is a pretty good littlewar.

“The situation was kind of reversed last year,” Adams continued.”We had the team and they came over here and played our socks off.”The Cougars pulled out a 35-28 win.

Adams showered praises on the Panthers. “This is the bestBrookhaven team I’ve faced since I’ve been here. They are prettysolid. They have three very good backs who can take it thedistance. Their defensive line is pretty solid.”

A state playoff berth makes the game more important, accordingto Adams. “The rivalry does help you. There are playoffimplications. It is a big game for us.

“This game should be exciting. If we can play some defense, wecan make it a good ballgame.”

Adams is 2-0 versus Brookhaven. Wednesday was a blue-collar typepractice for the Cougars. Today they polish the game plan.

Wayne Hardy, inside junior linebacker, leads the Cougars intackles. Cornerback Jason Snell leads the team in interceptionswith three.

Panthers Think Cougars

Brookhaven head coach Greg Wall and his staff haveworked overtime preparing a game plan for Friday night. Wall saidthe Cougars have several weapons on offense.

Lawrence County junior fullback Johnathan Eley hasrushed for over 1,250 yards and scored 19 touchdowns this year. Hewas named The Daily Leader’s Offensive Player of the Week afterrushing for 225 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Cougars’ 47-0thumping of Crystal Springs.

Eley (6-0, 210) has speed and strength. He bench presses310 pounds, squats with 450 and runs the 40 in 4.65.

“Eley is as good a fullback as we have faced all year,”said Wall. “Jerry Smith, their quarterback, is one of the mostversatile players, in our division. Jamar Sibley is a fast tailbackand he’s a good receiver, too.”

Wall said the Cougars have a veteran offensive line.”Their offensive line is strong. They have Michael Smith, JoeyFoster and Justin Wilson. They are outstandingblockers.

“It will be a tough job for our defense.”

On defense, the Cougars run a 50 alignment. “Theirdefensive secondary has been doing a good job for them. They havehad some people step up for them.

Brookhaven’s defense is led by senior linebackers RonMackabee and Raphael Smith. Mackabee was named The Daily Leader’sDefensive Player of the Week after making 13 tackles againstTerry.

Offensively, the Panthers are led by senior quarterbackFred Perkins, junior tailback Cornelius Allen, senior wingbackTarik Williams and sophomore fullback Josh Anderson.

Williams rushed 4 times for 102 yards, scoring on a73-yard TD dash in the 48-7 trouncing of Terry. Allen has rushedfor 784 yards and scored 7 TDs this season. He returned a fumble 40yards for a TD against Terry.

Perkins has rushed for 581 yards and 12 TDs this year.He threw a 41-yard TD pass to Seth Flynn, his first scoring toss ofthe season, in the Terry game.

“I hope our players are ready,” said Wall. “The last twoyears we haven’t been able to get them. Maybe we can get a breakthis year.”

Panther Paws: Brookhaven will honor 15 senior footballplayers at 7:20 Friday night during a pregameceremony.