Yazoo County overcame a sloppy game to defeat Southeast Lauderdale 27-20 and move on to the second round of the MHSAA playoffs.
The win brought the Panthers’ record up to 10-2 (4-1) on the season.
Despite playing strong football down the stretch, Yazoo County’s Panthers did not play their strongest game of the season as the playoffs arrive, at least according to head coach Robert Dobbs.
“We did a good job of responding after some early adversity,” Dobbs said. “Defense forcing those two early turnovers helped settle everybody down. Offensively, we didn't have the ball much. Southeast did a good job of keeping us on the sidelines. We did a good job of cashing in on most of the opportunities we did have. We weren't as clean in the run game as we've been in past weeks, but we still were able to control the trenches coming down the stretch, and that opened up some things for us in the passing game.”
One of the biggest issues that the Panthers dealt with was having their defense on the field for the majority of the game, along with the penalties.
The Panthers also lost five fumbles in the contest.
But as they say, a win is a win, no matter the score.
“Self-inflicted wounds killed us, and they controlled the clock for most of the game,” Dobbs said. “Defense was on the field for 74 plays out of 120. We were on the field too much and didn’t do so good tackling. It wasn't pretty, but a win is win.”
While the offense for Yazoo County has been rolling as of late, it was the defense that stepped up and made the first major play of the game, a common thread in the flow of the game.
Alzavian Shelton picked up and fumble and took it 35 yards for a score. After a Raed Ali PAT, the Panthers led 7-0.
But the celebration barely had time to come to a completion when Southeast Lauderdale jumped on the board with a 1-yard TD run, but their PAT was unsuccessful, leaving Yazoo County with a 7-6 lead.
Before the quarter ended, the Yazoo County offense made their presence felt with a 47-yard strike from Kobe Fisher to Corey Rucker to put the Panthers ahead 14-6.
In the second quarter of play, Kobe Fisher took the ball into the end zone from one yard out. After a failed 2-point attempt, the Panthers led 20-6.
Before the half, the Tigers connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass and successfully converted a 2-point conversion to cut the lead to 20-14.
The Tigers tied things up at 20-20 in the third quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run (and an unsuccessful PAT attempt).
When the Panthers desperately needed a play to regain the momentum, Kobe Fisher and Corey Rucker once again stepped up, this time on a 37-yard touchdown pass. Another successful Ali PAT brought the score up to 27-20 with a quarter left to play.
As they have done so many times this season, the Panthers’ D stepped up in a big way in the final quarter, shutting out the Tigers to secure a 27-20 victory.
Kobe Fisher continued his run of dominance by going 10-for-16 for 123 yards and two touchdowns with a rushing score and a fumble.
Kory Gainwell was a monster in the win, going 103 yards on 12 carries and racking up 12 total tackles, one of which was for a loss.
Corey Rucker caught six passes for 103 yards with two touchdowns and a fumble.
Marlon Brown was a monster on the defensive end with 14 total tackles, two of which were for loss, and an interception.
Matthew Hughes had 11 total tackles, while Alphonso Ray had 10 total tackles, two of which were for loss.
Alzavian Shelton had four total tackles, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown in the winning effort.
Dobbs realizes that each playoff game has the potential to be more difficult than the last, so another week of penalties and turnovers could be too much for the Panthers to overcome.
“We are definitely going to have to clean up the penalties and turnovers going into next week's game,” Dobbs said. “We shot ourselves in the foot way too many times early in that game and allowed them to hang around.”
If the Panthers aren’t careful, that team could be West Marion, who the Panthers play on Friday night.
West Marion is 11-1 (4-1) on the year after dismantling Wilkinson County 56-6 on Friday night in the first round.
Dobbs believes this will be a challenge for his squad.
“They are very a fast, well-coached team that plays very hard,” Dobbs said. “They do a good job of executing plays on offense. Defensively, they will load up the box with 6 to 7 people to stop the run and play man coverage in the secondary.”
Kickoff at West Marion is set for 7 p.m.