Panthers eliminate East Central

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 11, 2002

HURLEY – An old football adage says that if you jump on youropponent early, you can bring them down emotionally and make themfight an uphill battle all night.

On Friday night, Brookhaven sophomore running back DariusPerkins certainly did his part on the first play from scrimmage,going 80 yards for a score. His 3-touchdown performance, along witha bend-but-don’t-break defense, propelled the Panthers to acaptivating 21-7 win over the East Central Hornets at H. D. ShirleyField.

East Central, the No. 2 team out of Region 8-4A, finished theirseason at 8-3.

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Brookhaven, the Region 6-4A No. 3 seed, will host South Pike onKing Field Friday at 7 p.m. in the second round of the Class 4ASouth state playoffs. The Region 6-4A No. 1-seeded Eagles prevailedover the St. Stanislaus Rock-A-Chaws 42-0 at Colee FieldFriday.

South Pike defeated Brookhaven 28-14 on Oct. 18, atMagnolia.

Despite the nearly 4-hour bus ride to southern Jackson County,the Panthers showed no ill effects from the trip. This wasBrookhaven’s first playoff road win in over 12 years.

Brookhaven (6-4) took only 13 seconds to set the tone for theballgame. After taking possession of the football at their own 20,Perkins took the handoff from sophomore quarterback Jimmy Johns andraced 80 yards untouched to the endzone. Senior placekickerDominick DiPaolo tacked on the first-of-three successful PAT kicksto give the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 11:47 left in the opening.

Perkins led the Panther offensive charge with 157 yards of totaloffense, including 122 rushing yards on 12 carries and 2 catchesfor 35 yards. He said that he was trying to go for it.

“The name of the play is 14 Gut,” said Perkins. “My thought wasto take the ball and go. My offensive line gave me a block.”

Perkins gave credit on the run to tight end Michael Thrasher,right tackle James Barker, right guard Kenneth Fairman, centerGrant McDonnieal, left guard Adam Ogden and left tackle TylerGatlin.

Hornet head coach Scott Sisson, an MC graduate, said that thebig run by Perkins was the key to the ballgame.

Brookhaven head coach Tucker Peavey also saw Perkins’ score as aturning point. “The first play was obviously a great play for us,”said Peavey. “Good play called with the defense that they had.”Coaches working with Peavey on offense are offensive coordinatorRyan Ross and receivers coach Eric Stokes.

“The first play of the game took the wind out of our sails,”said Sisson, referring to Perkins’s scoring jaunt. “It’s bad whenthe first play is the turning point.”

Perkins added 2 more scores in the game. The second touchdowncame at the 7:01 mark of the second period. Johns, with the line ofscrimmage at the Hornet 30, dropped back to pass. A heavy rush byEast Central ensued. After several seconds of avoiding theMaroon-clad Hornet defense, Johns found Perkins wide open at theHornet 10 and he went untouched into the endzone. That play cappeda 5-play, 57-yard drive, eclipsing 2:02 off the clock.

East Central dominated the time of possession 30:23 to 17:37 butthe Hornets used nearly 40 minutes to get on the scoreboard, thanksin part to suffocating Panther defense.

East Central receiver James Toomer caught a 33-yard touchdownpass from sophomore quarterback Adam McQueen with 8:22 left in thegame. Ryan Guardia tacked on the PAT kick. The series went 51 yardsin 3 plays, using 1 minute to complete.

The Johns-to-Perkins connection was called upon once more. With6:09 left in the game, this time from 5 yards out, culminating a6-play, 80-yard drive.

“The kids gave a great effort tonight,” said Peavey.

Defensively, the Panthers turned in anotheroutstanding performance. Senior LaKendrick Maxwell paced thedefensive surge with 11 tackles. Safety Josh Crawford had 10tackles and an interception. Linebacker Emmanuel Perkins had 7tackles, with a blocked field goal. Belma Cager supported with 8tackles. Julius Lloyd had 8 tackles, 1 sack and a forced fumble.Phillip Tobias had a sack and 2 huge pass breakups.

“The defense did another great job,” added Peavey. Defensivecoaches include coordinator Rod Henderson, Jaymie Palmer workingwith the linebackers and secondary coach Patrick Hardy.

“I want to first thank God for this victory,” said Hendersonfollowing the game. “We were a little nervous at first. But thatfirst play took a lot of that nervousness away.”