Panthers win with heart and faith

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 6, 2004

JACKSON – If you ask any member of the Class 4A championBrookhaven Panthers how to sum up the season, one phrase echoesdeep from their hearts: “Whatever it takes!”

From players to coaches, fans and cheerleaders, the Panthers’set out to make every stride a good one this season and in theprocess, accomplished their goal of becoming 2004 Class 4A statefootball champions.

“We’ve got a lot of heart and faith on this team,” saidBrookhaven defensive general Rod Henderson. “Words can’t expresshow good this feels.”

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Henderson and the Brookhaven assistants helped Panthers headcoach Tucker Peavey direct Brookhaven to the team’s best season inschool history. Peavey and his assistants Patrick Hardy, JaymiePalmer, Eric Stokes, Trevor Brister, Randy Spring and Hendersonkept it going, especially when the going got tough.

“When we were down at halftime, we came out and made someadjustments,” said Hardy, Panthers defensive backs coach. “Whateverit took, we did it this season.”

From the first day of fall practice to the final seconds of thechampionship game, Brookhaven turned to inspirational team leadersenior quarterback Jimmy Johns when they needed a spark.

“I can’t say enough about Jimmy Johns,” said Henderson. “He’sthe best player in Mississippi. He’s an athlete.”

The 6-3, 230-pound Johns was as smooth as he was quick againstClarksdale on Saturday night. The senior threw three touchdownpasses on 12-of-18 passing for 263 yards. On the ground, he wasequally impressive, rushing for 102 yards on 18 carries.

“I just gave it my best,” an emotional Johns said after thegame. “We stepped up in the second half and got the job done. Thiswas a true team effort and everyone on this team deserves this(championship). This is something I’ve always wanted, and now we’vegot it.

Johns intercepted a tricky double reverse pass by the Wildcatsas the final seconds ticked off the clock to end the game. Hedoubled his role on the field in the second half, playingquarterback and linebacker.

“Jimmy didn’t take a rep at linebacker this week in practice,”Henderson said. “Whenever we needed him, he answered and got thejob done.”

Clarksdale head coach Jim Hughes agreed.

“Johns is a great player,” said Hughes. “He made some greatplays.”

Clarksdale led 15-13 at the half and went up 23-19 in the thirdquarter. Brookhaven fought back and overwhelmed the Wildcats fromthere.

“We just came out and did what we had to do,” said Brookhavensenior linebacker Darius Perkins. “This is sweet, very sweet.”

Perkins collected his second championship ring of the year. Hestarred in the outfield for the Panthers Class 4A champion BHSbaseball team in May.

“It’s always a dream to win one championship,” said Perkins.”Winning two is awesome. It’s an amazing experience.”

And for the 2004 gridiron Panthers, the experience is one of adream come true.