Thanks to the determination, hard work, and refusal to quit by the Yazoo County Panthers (and a little help from Raleigh), the Yazoo County Panthers have won the MHSAA 3A Region6.
According to Yazoo County head coach Robert Dobbs, the team has been overwhelmed by the moment, which came down to mere points to determine a winner.
“The players are overwhelmed,” Dobbs said. “The coaches knew we had a chance of winning the division. I'm excited that we got the help we needed. It was a three-way tie with us, Velma, and Raleigh, and it came down to points to determine to the division winner.”
The district championship was solidified on Friday night when they defeated McLaurin 44-7.
Yazoo County was as dominant as they could possibly be in the win, taking a 36-0 lead into the final quarter, where McLaurin finally got on the board.
To Dobbs, it was great to see his team play like that on offense heading into the playoffs.
“Easily the best performance offensively of the season,” Dobbs said. “We got off to a fast start which is something that we had not been doing in previous games and we carried that momentum throughout the rest of the night. We scored on every offensive possession. That's big for us heading into the playoffs.”
While the win was fabulous, one of the most important things about the game was that the team had fun.
So often it is forgotten that these are high school students and the grind can become a tiresome chore.
For the Panthers, fun is being had, and fun equates victory.
“It was a good mental game for us, most everyone appeared to have fun,” Dobbs said. “It was the first time I saw us play to our ability the whole game. They just went out there, executed, and had fun. It was a good win going into playoffs, hopefully it will give them a boost of confidence for the playoffs.”
One aspect in particular that went well for Yazoo County was the ground game.
Despite having relatively few attempts running the ball, the Panthers racked up piles of yards.
Their ability to play a clean game was also a welcomed sight.
"Their best performance of the season,” Dobbs said. “We ran the ball only 19 times but finished with 251 yards on the ground, and of those 19 runs, nine were explosive runs of 10 or more yards. And most importantly no penalties against them. When you can be that dominant up front and do it without being penalized, that's championship-level football. Just have to keep that momentum going forward."
Kobe Fisher finished the game going 7-for-11 for 150 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Kory Gainwell ran the ball eight times for 148 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 52 yards.
Jamarion Stewart had four carries for 61 yards with two touchdowns.
Malik Banks caught two passes for 70 yards and a score.
Corey Rucker had two catches for 28 yards and two touchdowns.
Devonte Watson took five carries 32 yards in the winning effort.
Alzavian Shelton led the Panthers in tackles with 11 total tackles in the win, two of which were for loss.
De’shawn Hudson had seven total tackles, three of which were for loss, while Clifton Young also had seven total tackles, one of which was for a loss.
Matthew Hughes had six total tackles and picked off a pass in the winning effort.
Marico Crozier was dominant up front for the Panthers in the win. He graded out at 85% with several pancakes and big blocks.
Dobbs was proud of the effort from his big lineman.
"His best performance of the season,” Dobbs said. “He played well for us tonight, he graded out at 85%. He did a little bit of everything. He was very physical at the point of attack. He had several pancakes on some of our big gains. And anytime you look up and see an interior lineman 10 - 15 yards downfield throwing blocks on run plays, you know that kid is locked in."
With his linemen and the rest of his players fully locked in, Dobbs and the Panthers are ready for the playoffs.
He remembers the loss in the state title game well, and as far as he is concerned, there is business left to handle.
“It’s definitely a momentum builder for us heading into the playoffs,” Dobbs said. “We can't be satisfied, though. I mean winning the division is awesome, but we still have unfinished business.”
The playoff run for Yazoo County begins with Southeast Lauderdale on Friday night.
The Tigers of Southeast Lauderdale are 3-7 on the season after defeating Clarksdale 33-0 in the regular season finale.
Dobbs believes they will see an aerial attack from the Tigers, as well plenty of pressure, presenting a plethora of problems.
“Southeast Lauderdale is a tough, scrappy team that loves to throw the ball often,” Dobbs said. “Defensively, they are going to bring three man or 4-man pressures to disrupt the offense.”
Kickoff at Yazoo County is set for 7 p.m.