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War Eagles invade Brook

Brookhaven will line up against its strongest opponent of theseason Friday night when the Wayne County War Eagles invade KingField for the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs. Kickoffis 7 p.m. and a record crowd is anticipated.

Brookhaven (9-2), ranked No. 6 in the latest Associated PressPrep Poll, and No. 3 Wayne County (10-1) both scored big wins inthe opening round of the playoffs. The Panthers rallied to beatPearl River Central 35-20 and the Eagles squashed Vancleave38-7.

Panther head coach Tucker Peavey said Wayne County has size,speed, strength and numbers. “They have the best combination ofsize and speed that I’ve seen. They also have depth.”

There are 98 players listed on Wayne County’s varsity roster,including 35 seniors. The War Eagles won the Class 5A statechampionship last year.

Peavey said Eagle tailback (No. 2) Jerod Sims (5-8, 165, sr.) isa big-play threat. “If he gets a step, he’s gone.”

At quarterback, J.J. Taylor (5-8, 150, sr.) has been moved towide receiver to capitalize on his speed. Replacing him is freshmanDrexler Johnson (6-0, 165) who can run and throw.

Johnson ran for one touchdown and passed for three more in WayneCounty’s 38-7 win over Vancleave.

“Number 5 (Taylor) has big-time speed on kickoff and puntreturns,” said Peavey.

The Eagles use a variety of formations on offense, including thePower-I, 4 wideouts and some shotgun.

Peavey said his Panthers are regaining their strength afterbeing devastated by a cold virus last week. “We are in bettershape. I want to thank our team physicians for helping them gethealthy.”

Against Pearl River Central, the Panthers overcame a 20-14halftime deficit as junior running back Ronnie McNulty rushed for202 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sophomore Dominique Smith rushed for161 yards and 2 TDs.

Johns completed 6 of 9 passes for 72 yards and rushed 7 timesfor 62 yards. He has completed 80 of 181 passes for 1,184 yards and18 touchdowns this season.

On defense, end Philip Tobias led the Panthers with 9 tackles, 2sacks and 2 pass deflections. Tackle Jesse Bowman had 8 stops.Safety Jarvis Wilson intercepted 2 passes and made 5 tackles,earning The DAILY LEADER’s Defensive Player of the Week award.

Peavey said he hopes Panther fans fill the stands tomorrownight. “We need a big crowd early. I hope our people will showup.”

Boyles Leads Wayne Co.

Marcus Boyles is in his third year as Wayne County head coach.He replaced Bobby Hall who went to Northeast Community College.

Previously, Boyles coached at Taylorsville for 5 successfulyears and spent 2 years at Pearl.

“We have played well most of the season,” said Boyles. “We aresenior-laden ball club.”

Fullback Michael McLaughlin (6-1, 215, sr.) is the Eagles’leading rusher with about 1,150 yards.

“I came in here four years ago and I gave the kids confidencethey could be good,” said Boyles. “Each year we made strides to getbetter.”

Steve Gandy (6-2, 195, sr.) at linebacker is the team’s leadingtackler. At defensive end Deshawn Smith (6-1, 190, sr.) anchors theline. “They are playing really well for us right now,” saidBoyles.

Wayne County’s only loss was 23-15 to West Jones four weeksago.

Boyles said he is impressed by the Panthers. “Brookhaven has agreat football team. They are probably the best team we have playedso far. They are big and physical on both sides of the ball.”

“They have a good quarterback (Jimmy Johns), the best we’veplayed. He can throw and run it. They have good running backs,too.

“On defense, they have tremendous athletes up front, some bigand quick linemen.”

Panther Paws: In the other South State 4Aplayoff games tomorrow night, Lawrence County hosts NortheastLauderdale, South Pike visits West Jones and George County is atQuitman. In the North, Kosciusko is at Oxford, Pontotoc at NoxubeeCounty, Clarksdale at Louisville and Provine at Pearl.