Second half surge lifts Panthers

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 25, 2006

Mendenhall boasted an abundance of talented skill players butthe Tigers self-destructed Friday night on King Field. Theysuffered six turnovers and the Brookhaven Panthers erased asecond-quarter deficit to claim a hard-fought 32-18 victory inRegion 6-4A action.

“We stunk it up,” said a dejected Mendenhall head coach ChrisPeterson. “We had turnovers and interceptions. But give Brookhavencredit.”

Credit Ole Brook’s secondary with 4 interceptions, including 2by safety R.J. Jenkins. Bo Smith and Jerrell Buie also interceptedpasses.

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“First, I want to give credit to God,” said Jenkins, a seniorleader. “I want to thank the coaches for putting me in the rightplace. I also want to thank our defensive line andlinebackers.”

On a warm, humidity-soaked night, Mendenhall (2-3, 0-2) came outsmoking. The Tigers marched down the field on their firstpossession only to see Willie Bass fumble into the end zone andJenkins recover. They still led 12-0 in the second quarter assenior quarterback James Walker scored on a sneak and later hookedup with running back Bertrail Easterling on a 37-yard touchdowncatch.

The Tigers took a 12-0 lead with 46 seconds left in the firsthalf.

Brook developed some momentum in the fading seconds asquarterback Charles (Bobo) Rancifer guided the Panthers down thefield. They went 80 yards in 6 plays. Rancifer threw a 38-yardstrike to Marcus Smith in the end zone as the horn sounded.

Will Thibodeaux’s PAT kick reduced the deficit to 12-7 atintermission.

Senior center Taylor Newman said the Panthers adjusted toMendenhall’s defense at halftime. “We started blocking. We werekind of confused the first half. Mendenhall was walking up a strongsafety to linebacker and we didn’t block him.”

Rancifer said Brook’s turnaround was a matter of execution. “Wecame out an executed. They were showing us a different defensivefront when we started the game.”

Wilson Sparkles

The second half became the Charles Wilson Show as the Pantherssenior running back broke loose for 106 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hefinished with 21 carries for 135 yards.

To start the second half, Brook went 70 yards in just 4 plays.Rancifer raced 43 yards to the Mendenhall 4-yard line and Wilsonscored on the next play. Thibodeaux converted the PAT and Brook led14-12.

Another Tiger fumble, this one by Easterling, was recovered byBHS lineman Virgil Sanders at the Mendenhall 26. Brook settled fora 34-yard field goal by Thibodeaux and a 17-12 lead.

On the next Tiger series, Bo Smith intercepted Walker nearmidfield and returned the theft to the 22. Three plays later,Wilson plunged over left tackle for the TD. Rancifer hit widereceiver Simmie Yarborough on the 2-point conversion pass and thePanthers led 25-12.

Senior linebacker Greg Walker said the Panthers stepped up inthe second half. “We came out motivated and played with Pantherpride. Mendenhall was fast but we wanted it more.”

Jenkins made his second interception at Brook’s 22-yard line.That ignited a 78-yard scoring march. Wilson made his longest TDrun of the game, cutting back and galloping 34 yards to the endzone, making it 32-12 with 7:30 left in the game.

Mendenhall responded with a 70-yard scoring march. On fourthdown at Brook’s 5-yard line, Walker hit Darrell McGhee with a TDpass in the corner of the end zone.

Ole Brook head coach Tucker Peavey was happy with his team’scomeback, especially after the previous week’s last-second loss atMcComb. “We had a chance to shut down and give up but we hung inthere. Our offensive line did a great job the second half.

“Defensively, we played at a faster pace,” Peavey pointed out.”We blocked and ran the ball better.”

Peavey’s Panthers (3-2, 1-1) are at Florence Friday night for aregion test.,