Loss ends Cinderella campaign

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, December 5, 2010

JACKSON – The Brookhaven Panthers saw their Cinderella seasoncome to a disappointing end Saturday night about three hours beforemidnight. West Point flexed its muscles and rammed a brutal rushingattack at the Panthers.

Still, the Panthers had much to be proud of since startingpractice in the sweat-soaked days of early August. They reboundedfrom a 2-3 start when fortunes looked bleak in early October. ThePanthers and their fans can stand proud and tall, especially afterbeating three straight favored teams in the state playoffs.

Senior defensive tackle Jawaun Merchant was wishing he hadanother shot at West Point.

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“We played hard but we didn’t win. All they did was cut (block)us. We could have played with them.”

Merchant and offensive tackle Stone Underwood will representBrookhaven in next Saturday’s Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Classicin Mobile, Ala. They’ll have some West Point teammates, too.

“I’ll still get to play football next week,” said Underwood,forcing a smile “That’s what I love to do is play football.”

Merchant and Underwood are among 26 seniors on Brookhaven’steam. For sure, Coach Tucker Peavey and his staff will have arebuilding chore on their hands.

No doubt there are plenty of underclassmen ready to fill thoselarge shoes next season.

Hart celebrates title

There was no denying the Lafayette County Commodores this timearound. They buried the memories of last year’s state championshiploss by wrecking North Pike 31-6 Saturday in the MHSAA Class 4Astate championship game.

Loyd Star native Anthony Hart received the traditional ice watersoaking with 2:20 left in the game. The Lafayette County head coachis revered by his community. His six-year record of 63-16 isimpressive to say the least. They became the first school to win 16games in one season, a perfect 16-0.

Besides the state championship, Hart’s teams have defeatedcrosstown rival Oxford five straight years. That’s known asbragging rights.

Dressed in garnet jerseys and gold helmets, Hart’s ‘Doresresembled a Florida State team. His quarterback, junior JeremyLiggins, is a super talent who should be one of the top recruitingtargets in the Magnolia State next year.

North Pike was in uncharted waters Saturday but the Jaguars hada huge following. Many of them were dressed in powder blueoutfits.

Coach Chris Smith’s Jaguars made football history at the school.Smith, in his fourth season at the helm, led the Jaguars to a 14-2worksheet.

Certainly, North Pike has much to be proud about. The Jaguarsare expected to move up to Class 5A in two years as the populationshifts to Northern Pike County.

BHS staying put

The MHSAA has released its latest reclassification list for the2011-2013 school years. Brookhaven, Wayne County, West Jones,McComb and Stone County will remain in Region 3-5A.

However, welcome newcomers Pearl, Jackson Wingfield and SouthJones. Gone is Forest Hill to 6A. Picayune and Pearl River Centralare moving to Region 4-5A.

There are several changes in Region 4-1A. The most staggeringchange is West Lincoln’s decision to go independent. It’scomparable to raising the white flag of surrender.

According to West Lincoln coach Chris Calcote, administratorsfelt the change was necessary to keep the program afloat. Calcoteis trying to come up with a credible schedule. In other words, isthere a team out there the Bears can beat?

West Lincoln went winless in 11 games this year and that was nofun at all. It’s tough practicing every day and then getting yourbutt whipped on Friday night.

West Lincoln has plenty of community support but enthusiasm forfootball is dwindling. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix.

The Bears might wind up playing junior varsity teams from LoydStar and Wesson on Thursday nights. They might keep the seriesgoing with Enterprise, a struggling 2A program that’s close tohome.

There are some other independent teams but scheduling one ofthem would require a 2-3 hour bus ride. Someone suggested playingthe Brookhaven ninth grade team but that could be a painfulexperience for the Bears.