Louisville hunts for Class 3A state title

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 7, 2007

JACKSON — Louisville Wildcats head coach Brad Peterson’s lastmemory of Franklin County wasn’t a good one.

“I remember playing against them in the second round of theplayoffs in 2004 as the head coach of Forest,” said Peterson. “Theyphysically beat us that night. It was real bad.”

Three years later, Peterson faces the Bulldogs again on a muchbigger stage, the Class 3A State Championship, Saturday at 3 p.m.as Louisville (11-3) faces Franklin County (12-2).

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“It feels good to be playing in the State Championship,” saidPeterson. “It’s no surprise that Franklin County is back. They arethe defending champs.”

Most throughout the state anticipated since August that theBulldogs and Wildcats would cross paths for the title. Both teamsstruggled early, but got into a groove once the playoffs began.

“We played some tough teams early,” said Peterson referring tohis ball club’s defeats to Starkville, Wayne County, and 4Afinalist Noxubee County. “It made us tougher.”

Clayton Moore, the Wildcats’ talented 6-foot-1, 205-pound juniorquarterback, passed for 3,004 yards this season along with 29touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

“He (Clayton) has really taken control of our offense thisseason,” said Peterson. “He’s done a good job.”

Moore’s main target is junior playmaker Dennis Thames, who haslined up at wide receiver and running back in the complexLouisville offense.

“Dennis is really fast and he makes plays for us,” said Moore.”He does a good job catching the ball.”

Thames (5-11, 180) is a speedster who has caught 56 passes for947 yards and 8 touchdowns this season. At running back he hasrushed for 631 yards on 81 carries for 8 scores.

“I just get out there and give my all,” said Thames. “Our goalis to win the state championship. And now we’re one game from doingit.”

Senior Arnold Henderson is the Wildcats’ leading rusher, with720 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. On defense, linemanMalcolm Kincaid leads the team with 81 tackles and 12 sacks. Thameshas 81 tackles and three interceptions, and has returned two picksfor scores. Ernie Triplett has four interceptions.

Louisville beat Kossuth, Charleston, Ripley, and Corinth, torepresent the north in the 3A Championship.

“We’re been playing some good football lately,” said Peterson.”Looking at Franklin County on film we are going to have our handsfull. They are so good on both sides of the ball. They can do itall.”

Like everyone, Peterson is impressed by the Tillman cousins Joshand Bo, plus sophomore Bobby O’Quinn at defensive tackle.

“That number 72 (O’Quinn) is very impressive,” added Peterson.”Franklin County is the complete package. The quarterback (Collins)is good. The offensive line is very dominant, and they have somegood backs that run the ball well.”

Louisville, an annual 4A powerhouse, moved down to 3A this fallafter MHSAA realignment. The Wildcats won five titles in 4A,including one in 1991, when Peterson was the Wildcats’ seniorquarterback.

“We haven’t won a championship here in a long time,” saidPeterson. “Hopefully we can change that this Saturday.”

WILDCAT CLAWS – Louisville junior Dennis Thamescomes from an athletic family. His uncle Marcus Thames is a memberof the Detroit Tigers and is best known for hitting a home run inhis first major league at bat off of Randy Johnson.