Panthers travel to East Central

Published 6:00 am Thursday, November 7, 2002

Center Grant McDonnieal and guard Kenneth Fairman, two ofBrookhaven’s starting offensive linemen, have been an importantpart of the team’s steady improvement since the start of theseason. They have helped the Panthers land a berth in the Class 4Astate playoffs. Brookhaven (5-4) plays the East Central Hornets(8-2) Friday night at Hurley. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Brookhaven’s starting offensive line is composed ofunderclassmen. McDonnieal, left tackle Tyler Gatlin and tight endMichael Thrasher are sophomores. Fairman, left guard Adam Ogden andright tackle James Barker are juniors.

“I feel real good about making the playoffs,” said Fairman. “Wehave improved a lot since we started. We have to stay focused.”

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McDonnieal said has been watching the East Central defense onfilm. “They run a 30 front and they’re real quick.”

Since preseason practice began in the sweat-soaked days of earlyAugust, McDonnieal and his teammates have come together as a team.The Panthers are under the direction of first-year head coachTucker Peavey. The team has a new offensive coordinator in RyanRoss and a new defensive coordinator in Rod Henderson.

“We have developed more and grown up as a team,” saidMcDonnieal. “I’m excited about making the playoffs.”

Peavey has seen his young squad make steady progress. Theyauthored a second-half comeback last Friday night, beating LawrenceCounty 41-22 to secure third place in the Region 6-4A race.

“The character of this team is to keep working hard and notquit,” said Peavey. “They have come a long way.”

Peavey said East Central (8-2) provides a strong challenge forhis Panthers. “They are a solid football football team. They arestrong in the line, on offense and defense.”

Leading East Central on defense is nose guard Joseph Cumberland(5-10, 205). Peavey said Cumberland is extremely quick and “has alot of leverage.”

At linebacker, the Hornets are led by Bradley Goldman (6-0, 185)and Eric Bell (5-10, 170). Defensive end Travis Hubbard (5-11, 205)is another leader.

On offense, East Central’s best weapon could be seniorplacekicker Ryan Guardia. He has scored 62 points this season andkicked a 52-yard field goal.

At quarterback, sophomore Adam McQueen (6-0, 160) is at thecontrols. Senior running back Justin Garner (5-10, 160) is theteam’s leading rusher and has scored 54 points this season. JosephTaylor (6-2, 215) works at fullback.

East Central, located north of Moss Point, lost a 14-3 decisionto division champion D’Iberville. The Hornets were ambushed byGulfport St. John’s 49-13 and suffered their second loss.

The Hornets are under the direction of head coach Scott Sisson.His assistant coaches are Doug Crane, Toby Melton, Robert Magee,Paul Hull and Stacey Simmons.

Brookhaven’s offense is under the direction of sophomorequarterback Jimmy Johns (6-2, 210) who has passed for 1,037 yardsand 12 touchdowns. His leading receivers are Bud Chatman with 26catches for 592 yards and 6 touchdowns and Kendell Nickelson(19/222/1TD).

Sophomore Darius Perkins is the team’s leading rusher with 78carries for 395 yards and 5 TDs. Senior Josh Anderson has rushedfor 244 yards and 6 TDs.

The Panthers average 243.1 yards total offense per game, 113rushing and 129.6 passing.

Placekicker/punter Dominick DiPaolo has made 22 of 26 extrapoints and is 4-for-4 in field goals. He is averaging 32.4 yardsper punt.

Brookhaven’s aggressive defense is allowing 202.9 yards pergame, 114 rushing and 87.2 passing.

Against Lawrence County, senior linebacker Belma Cager ledBrookhaven’s defense with 11 tackles. Lakendrick Maxwell, JoshCrawford and Emmanuel Perkins followed with 8 tackles apiece.

Panther Paws: Last year Brookhaven advanced tothe state playoffs as the No. 4 team out of the region and lost toNortheast Jones in the opening round.