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Panthers host McComb Tigers

McComb head coach Ted Milton didn’t have much time to enjoy histeam’s first win of the season last Friday night. Just over thehorizon were the Brookhaven Panthers, primed and ready for theannual feud.

Kickoff for the ancient rivalry is 7 p.m. Friday on King Field.Another large crowd is expected to fill the stadium.

In a major rebuilding year, Milton’s Tigers lost their firstfour games of the season. They started with 3 straightheavyweights, falling to Hattiesburg 17-14, Warren Central 29-0,Wayne County 16-8 and Lawrence County 14-7. They posted a 10-6 winover the Wingfield Falcons last Friday in C.C. Moore Stadium.

“We’ve been close in a couple of games,” said Milton. “Our kidsare young and playing hard. As a coaching staff we have nocomplaints about how our kids are playing.

“We’ve lost three games by a touchdown or less,” Milton pointedout. “We have 25 10th graders so we are totally opposite ofBrookhaven.”

What is Milton’s opinion of 4-1 Brookhaven?

“Brookhaven is the best football team we’ve played this year,”answered Milton. “They are a very well-balanced football team.

“Offensively, they run the ball and pass the ball well. Theyhave a great offensive line. They have some big receivers who cango get the football. They have 24 seniors and are veryexperienced.”

Milton said his defense faces a difficult challenge. “I don’tthink anybody has stopped Brookhaven’s offense. You can just tryand slow it down. They have (Ronny) McNulty and (Jimmy) Johns, andfour wide receivers.”

While the Tigers have looked strong on defense, their offensehas shown the normal growing pains. Against Wingfield, sophomoreDemorse Stewart (5-9, 175) rushed 21 times for 157 yards and atouchdown. Stewart was moved from defense to offense this year.Milton said he has a bright future ahead of him.

At quarterback, McComb has a first-year starter in DominickThompson (5-10, 179, jr.). “He is doing a great job of running theoffense,” said Milton. “He has to get better throwing thefootball.”

Brookhaven head coach Tucker Peavey has been watching McComb onfilm. “If you look at the scores of their games, they play gooddefense. They are a young team but they have a lot of speed on thefield. You don’t want to play them the week of their breakoutgame.”

Peavey’s Panthers are fresh from a 37-6 trouncing of the JimHill Tigers. McNulty rushed for 157 yards and 3 touchdowns. Johnscompleted 10 of 15 passes for 153 yards and a score. He rushed 15times for 76 yards. Wide receiver Bud Chatman caught 4 passes for78 yards, including a 34-yard TD catch.

They are ranked No. 14 in this week’s Associated Press PrepPoll.

On defense, the Panthers were led by senior lineman JessieBowman who had 7 tackles and a quarterback sack. Linebacker MarlonDixon had 5 tackles and 2 pass deflections. Arlandus Chapman had 5tackles and Darius Perkins 4. Cornerback Jerome Avery intercepted apass, the first theft for Brookhaven’s secondary this year.

Peavey, a 1980 BHS graduate, has fond memories of his final gameagainst McComb. “We beat McComb my senior year. That’s a goodmemory.”

In 1979, the Panthers prevailed 21-0 and finished 4-6 underformer head coach Les Bumgarner.

Besides the rivalry, Friday’s game is a Region 6-4A test for thePanthers who are defending region champions. “It’s a district gameand it’s a tradition game,” said Peavey. “I look for it to be a bigFriday night.’

Last week’s home game against Hill had a paid attendance of3,000. Peavey said the strong community support for his team athome and on the road has been gratifying.

“Our players really appreciate the support from the fans. Itmeans a lot to them.”

Panther Paws: Last year at McComb, Brookhavenposted a 41-7 victory, ending a 5-year dominance by the Tigers.Johns completed 10 of 16 passes for 210 yards and 4 touchdowns.Taurean Jones caught 4 passes for 60 yards and a TD.