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Cinderella Panthers in media showcase

JACKSON – The festive celebration, also known as the MHSAAFootball Championship Media Conference, took place Monday morningas a cold rain pelted down outside the Mississippi Sports Hall ofFame Museum. Cinderella, a.k.a. the Brookhaven Panthers, wasn’tlate for this very important date with destiny.

Amidst all the glitz, lights, cameras and journalists, Ole Brookhead coach Tucker Peavey felt right at home. It’s been six yearssince his Panthers last played for a state championship and broughthome a title.

Peavey believes his team can do it again Saturday night whenthey meet the West Point Green Wave in the Class 5A statechampionship game. Kickoff is 7 p.m. in Mississippi VeteransMemorial Stadium.

With Peavey at the Class 5A table were three of his players:quarterback Duwone Harris, tight end/fullback Nick Peavey anddefensive back E.J. Henderson. Also present were Brookhavensuperintendent Lea Barrett, BHS principal Dr. Jay Smith and BHSband director Clay Whittington.

MHSA executive director Dr. Ennis Proctor greeted the 12 schoolsand their representatives. Proctor is retiring after this schoolyear and Don Hinton will replace him at the helm. The MHSAA hasmade giant strides forward under Proctor’s progressiveguidance.

Proctor thanked the game’s corporate sponsors and noted that allsix of the state title games will be televised. This is aneven-number year so that means the North will be the designatedhome teams. If you like omens, BHS was the visiting team in2004.

Noisemakers, such as air horns, will not be permitted at thegames. Spirit sticks are acceptable.

Peavey echoed the sentiments of the other head coaches.”Obviously, making it here is a great accomplishment for our wholeprogram. I know the people in Brookhaven are excited.”

Smith said the hallways of BHS have been filled with enthusiasmsince the Panthers knocked off Wayne County in overtime two weeksago. “There’s a lot of excitement.”

Barrett, who plans to retire at the close of the school year,glows with enthusiasm for the Panthers. She was on hand for Brook’slast state title appearance.

“These are two wonderful bookends for my career,” said Barrett.”I’m very pleased that we can keep the community enthused with ourteam’s success. Our schools have great test scores, great teachersand great students.

“I hope we see everybody in the community at our game, just likelast time,” Barrett continued. “We hope to have a caravan on I-55Saturday, all the way to Jackson.”

Harris, Henderson and Peavey had some stories to share withtheir teammates at Monday afternoon’s practice session. They havebeen interviewed by print, TV and radio media.

“I love it right now,” answered Harris, when asked about hisfirst encounter with Media Day. “There’s a lot of good athletes andcoaches here. There’s a lot of TV stations, newspapers and radiopeople here.”

For sure, BHS was the only No. 4 seed present. The Panthers(9-4) won three straight playoff games against favored opponents.They and Mount Olive (10-4) also have the most losses of the 12teams. Mount Olive, the defending Class 1A state champion, meetsDurant (14-0) in Friday’s title game.

Game tickets are on sale this week at the Brookhaven CentralOffice. They are $12 each, one buck less than the game day cost.Best of all, BHS receives 10 percent of all tickets sold inadvance.

Last time the Panthers played for a state title, an estimatedcrowed of 15,000 watched them defeat the Clarksdale Wildcats in theClass 4A championship.

Ole Book’s tailgaters take note. The MHSAA is charging $25 foreach tailgate setup, if you bring a tent and tables, and lawnchairs. It will cost $50 a tailgater if they spend Friday night onthe parking lot.

For the economic-minded soul, you can just pay to park yourvehicle, sit in your car, sip a Coke and either eat a cheesesandwich or gnaw a piece of fried chicken.

In another game of local interest, North Pike’s Jaguars (14-1)meet Lafayette County (14-0) in Saturday’s Class 4A state titletest that kicks off at 3 p.m. Lafayette is under the direction ofLoyd Star product Anthony Hart. His Commodores were runners-up toSt. Stanislaus last year.

North Pike, making its first-ever state title game appearance,is coached by Chris Smith. The Jaguars have risen from the ashes ofClass 2A several years ago to become a 4A powerhouse.

Delta State quarterback Micah Davis is among the 10 finalistsfor the Cellular South Conerly Trophy that recognizes the topcollege football player in Mississippi. Davis is a Wesson productwho played for his father, Glenn Davis, for two years atCopiah-Lincoln Community College.

The ceremony will take place at the Mississippi Sports Hall ofFame and Museum, starting at 6:30 tonight. Other nominees arequarterbacks Austin Davis of Southern Miss, Jeremiah Masoli of OleMiss, Brandon Bridge of Alcorn State, Casey Therriault of Jackson,Tommy Reyer of Mississippi College and Alex Williams of Belhaven,plus linebacker Chris White of Mississippi State and defensive backMarkkus Davis of Valley State.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com