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Brookhaven Panthers respect Wingfield, not looking further ahead

Story by Adam Northam.

What a time to be a Panther.

The Brookhaven High School football team has been living large in 2017, ripping off seven straight wins after one little loss in the opening week. Postseason play is all but certain, home field advantage is likely and tonight’s game is against lowly Wingfield, a team that’s been abused all season.

Brookhaven folks are excited. Head coach Tommy Clopton is not.

“You have to respect everybody. On any given day, any team can be beaten — it happens all the time,” he said.

Although Wingfield (2-6, 1-3) seems ill prepared to welcome the Brookhaven (7-1, 4-0) juggernaut to its home field in Jackson — the Falcons have lost most of their games in pretty uneven contests, and they were blown out, way out, by Heidelberg and Laurel — Clopton has his Panthers going back to the basics in practice this week. He said mistakes were made in last week’s 9-point victory over Natchez, and those mistakes have to be cleaned up.

Or Wingfield, with their big losses and bad record, may do a little cleaning of their own.

The Falcons have been victims of bad luck, Clopton pointed out, saying game film shows a different team than the 2-6 record indicates. Unfortunate turnovers and bad timing have snowballed into big losses for Wingfield, but they have the talent to win any game they play.

“Their quarterback is talented, and they have one of the better defensive ends we’ve played against,” he said. “We will be the favored team on paper, but our kids understand they have to go out and beat them.”

If basics are the focus in Panther practices this week, basics should earn the victory against Wingfield. Brookhaven shouldn’t need anything fancy to get through a Falcon defense that’s giving up almost 31 points per game this season.

Handing the ball off has worked well for Brookhaven this year. Senior Damarrell Leggett has rushed 95 times for 916 yards — almost 10 yards per carry — and found the end zone 16 times. When he’s not on the field, sophomore JQ Edwards has ran for almost 10 yards per carry himself, getting 876 yards on the ground and scoring eight times. In the air, junior quarterback Sevante Quinn has thrown for almost 900 yards and mailed in 16 scores of his own.

“That tells you right up front the offensive line had a really good year, done a really good job,” Clopton said, spreading the praise around. “The games we’ve been able to win, we’ve been able to control the line of scrimmage.”

Wingfield will have a hard time slowing down the Panther offense, and barring the intervention of some strange football gods, the Falcon offense should be in for a long night, too.

Senior defensive back Jemaurian Jones has been jealous in Brookhaven’s secondary, snagging seven interceptions and returning one for a score, forcing one fumble and tallying 93 tackles. Senior offensive lineman Trace Clopton has been getting in time on that side of the ball, too, and sophomore Byrion Robinson has 37 tackles and two interceptions — all with a fractured wrist.

Clopton also called out Dahauntre Hill, Jeffery Johnson, Michael Stallings and Coker Wright as key contributors on defense.

“You win the line of scrimmage, contain the run game up front, you’ve got a chance to be successful on defense,” he said.

Brookhaven is in complete control of its postseason chances, and beating Wingfield would bring some nice rewards.

A win tonight would put the Panthers at 5-0 in the district, guaranteeing a trip to the playoffs. District games against South Jones and West Jones close out the season, and winning those would put the big cats on the road to a championship game.

But first, Wingfield.

“You want to play your best ball when the last ballgame is played, not peak too early,” Clopton said. “Right now, we are concentrating on Wingfield, and our point of emphasis this week is to be better.”