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North Panola defeats Water Valley for 2-3A title, perfect season

WATER VALLEY — For the first time in six years Water Valley had the opportunity to play for the Region 2-3A championship.

To do so they had to get past undefeated North Panola, and Mother Nature. The obstacles were too much to get past as the Cougars won 22-0 on a rain-soaked Friday night at Bobby Clark Field.

North Panola (10-0, 5-0 Region 2-3A) claimed the No. 1 seed for the Class 3A playoffs — which begin next week — while Water Valley (7-4, 4-1) became the No. 2 seed. Both will host first round games.

Missed opportunities by Water Valley’s offense and a handful big plays allowed by their defense was the story in Friday night’s loss.

“The defense, I thought, played well,” Water Valley head coach Brad Embry said. “We gave up a few busts. But hey, (North Panola’s) good. They’re talented. Defensively, we got after it. Offensively, we didn’t handle the conditions real well.”

Water Valley held the Cougars to their second-lowest point total of the season. Rosa Fort held North Panola to 20 points in the second game of the year on Aug. 25.

The Blue Devil defense proved to be up to the challenge early with a fourth-down stand on 4 & goal inside their five yard-line on North Panola’s first possession of the game.

The offense could not capitalize as the Cougar defense forced a safety on the ensuing play for the early 2-0 lead.

North Panola’s offense got going later in the first quarter when quarterback KJ Jefferson connected on a 61-yard pass to Eric Bailey. A failed two-point try made it 8-0 Cougars midway through the opening period.

That score stuck through the rest of the first half, giving Water Valley a prime chance at another region title only down a score to one of 3A’s most prolific offenses.

The Cougars showed how were able to score over 50 points in all four of their other region games just three plays into the second half.

Jefferson led North Panola on the opening possession of the third quarter which was capped by a nine-yard  run by Sylvonta Oliver for the 16-0 lead after a successful two-point play.

“The biggest drive of the game was (North Panola) come out and changed their scheme and popped us for two little plays right out of halftime,” Embry said. “We got it fixed but it got them down there close and they were able to score on that drive.”

Water Valley’s offense managed to move the ball up and down the field on North Panola but could never get the ball across the goal line.

On two occasions the Blue Devils had turnover on downs after incomplete passes by quarterback Blayne Clark on drives that were inside the Cougar 15 yard-line.

Clark got the nod due to senior quarterback Ty Varner nursing an injury with his non-throwing shoulder he suffered early last week against Independence.

Embry noted Varner and running back Trenderrious Brock were still ‘day-to-day, week-to-week’ with their injuries.

Water Valley will host South Pontotoc — who claimed the No. 3 seed out of Region 4 — in the first round of the 3A playoffs next Friday at 7 p.m.