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Panthers take South Championship

Red spirit sticks beat a steady staccato of noise through thecold night air. Fans seated and standing on the cold brick homestands chanted, “Defense. Defense. Defense.”

In a titanic battle, the Brookhaven Panthers provided their fanswith a thrilling 27-26 triumph over the previously unbeaten WestJones Mustangs in the Class 5A South State championship game Fridaynight on King Field. An estimated crowd of 5,000 witnessed thegame.

Ole Brook fans swarmed the field after the game to help theirfavorite team celebrate.

Players were hugged and kissed by the adoring faithful. Otherspaused and posed for pictures.

The Panthers (9-4), proud owners of three straight playoff winsover favored opponents, advance to Saturday night’s 5A statechampionship game against West Point. Kickoff is 7 p.m. inMississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Coach Tucker Peavey’s Panthers won it all in 2004, beatingClarksdale in the Class 4A state championship game. His latestedition started the season slowly, but steadily improved as injuredplayers returned to the starting lineup.

Seeded No. 4 in the Region 3-5A standings, the Panthers caughtNo. 1 seed Long Beach out of Region 4-5A in the opening round. Theyproduced a 23-21 upset at Long Beach.

In Round Two, the Panthers avenged a regular-season loss toWayne County, winning 21-14 in overtime. Gathering more momentum,the Panthers avenged a 31-0, regular-season loss to West JonesFriday night.