Panthers visit McComb Tigers

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 4, 2001

The Brookhaven Panthers put their Region 6-4A title hopes on theline Friday night when they visit the McComb Tigers for a regionalrest. Kickoff is 7:30 in C.C. Moore Stadium.

Brookhaven (4-1, 2-0) meets the defending state champion Tigersin an ancient rivalry. McComb (2-3, 1-1) is in the midst of a majorrebuilding effort. The Tigers are under the direction of new headcoach Ted Milton who had been an assistant at McComb for 23years.

South Pike (4-1, 1-0) visits Terry (3-1, 0-1) and LawrenceCounty (4-1, 1-1) plays at Port Gibson (3-1, 1-1) in two majorregion matchups tomorrow night.

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Milton, defensive coordinator last year when Lee Bramlett washead coach, said the glorious 2000 campaign is pleasant history atbest. “I’m trying to win a football game. People tend to forget(last year) real quick.

“We are playing pretty good football but we have a young team,”Milton continued. “I have no gripe with the effort of our kids.Turnovers and lack of execution have hurt us.”

Milton saw his Tigers open their season with a 27-0 loss toHattiesburg. They lost 13-6 at Warren Central in overtime, fumblingon the Vikings’ 1-yard line. They rebounded to beat Tylertown 12-7before losing to Lawrence County 28-19. McComb beat Raymond 23-0last Friday.

“Our defense has played well, with the exception of that firstquarter at Lawrence County,” said Milton.

On defense, the Tigers are led by linebackers Kareem Coleman,Mark Sandifer and Craig Nunnery. Jamie Jordan and Eltrio Spears arestandouts at defensive end.

At quarterback, senior Chad Lyons (6-1, 190) has made steadyimprovement. Michael Lewis, Antwon Martin and Johnathan Smith arethe leaders at running back. Smith is returning from a stressfracture in his foot.

Two starters return on offense for McComb, offensive tackleDanny Smith (6-1, 250) and wingback Marcus Gatlin (5 -8, 165).

Milton said he is impressed by the Panthers, especially theiroverall size in the offensive line. “They have a big line and theyrun the ball right at you. They don’t do a lot of fancythings.”

Panther tailback Cornelius Allen and quarterback Billy Williamscaught Milton’s eye. “Number 28 (Allen) is a very good runner. Thequarterback can run with it and throw it, too.”

In a local angle, Brookhaven native Ryan Ross is in his firstyear at McComb, serving as offensive coordinator. He was anassistant coach at BHS last year under former head coach Greg Wallwho returned to South Pike.

“Coach Ross is doing a great job for us,” said Milton. “He hadto rebuild our offense and put in a new system.”

Panthers In Cat Fight

Brookhaven head coach Andrew Hickman said McComb shouldprovide a severe test for his Panthers. “McComb is good and theyhave a lot of speed. Number Five (Gatlin) is really fast. We aregoing to have to strap it on Friday night.

“McComb has lost to some tough teams,” Hickman pointedout. “We will have our work cut out for us to stop them. They arethe best 2-3 team I’ve seen and they have a goodcoach.”

Hickman watched his team whip Port Gibson 31-20 lastFriday night, rolling up 309 yards total offense, including 255 onthe ground. The Panthers were led by Allen who rushed the football25 times for 194 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Allen underwent two root canals on abscessed molarsTuesday and hasn’t practiced this week. Hickman expects him to beready for McComb.

Fullback/linebacker Josh Anderson missed the last twogames due to a strained neck but Hickman said he would be able toplay against McComb.

Williams completed 8 of 13 passes for for 54 yards,including a 12-yard touchdown toss to KendellNickelson.

On defense, the Panthers were led by linebacker BelmaCager with 6 solo tackles and 2 assists. Tackle Julius Lloyd andlinebacker Josh Townsend were both credited with 6 tackles. AbeBlue and Lakendrick Maxwell intercepted passes.

Panther Paws: Last year McComb whipped the Panthers40-8, spoiling Brookhaven’s homecoming celebration. They lost toMcComb 28-6 in 1999 but posted a 20-14 win in 1998.