Skip to comments.High-octane Olive Branch, Petal offenses go toe-to-toe for 6A title (Mississippi HS Football)
Posted on 12/02/2011 9:19:24 AM PST by Sybeck1
Scott Samsel has taken in the Mississippi High School Activities Association state championship atmosphere at Jackson's Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium many times as a spectator.
There were, of course, exceptions. In 1993, he brought his Independence squad to face Forest for the Class 3A title. Despite leading at halftime, the Wildcats lost by six points.
"We just weren't a very good passing team, and I said when I left the stadium that day if I'm ever fortunate enough to get back, we're going to be able to throw the football," Samsel said. "I just didn't anticipate it taking 18 years."
Tonight, when Olive Branch meets Petal for the 6A crown, Samsel will be calling plays for one of the better pass-catch duos in the state, with quarterback Todd Mays and Arkansas commitment D'Arthur Cowan at receiver. And, a lot can be said about the 2,874 yards that Mays has collected through the air and the 1,209 yards hauled in by Cowan, but both coaches know there's just more to it when it comes to explaining the Conquistadors' 14-0 record.
"We're very fortunate to have a lot of playmakers," said Samsel, whose team has averaged 45.5 points over the last two months.
Added Petal's Steve Buckley: "They have the great ability to score from anywhere on the field. They can do it running the football or passing the football."
While Olive Branch's playoff victories over Clinton, Northwest Rankin and Madison Central all took place at Pool Field, the path to state for the Panthers (10-4) included road victories over Biloxi and Meridian, after opening the postseason with a 42-21 home win against Gulfport.
"Once you get into the playoffs, records really don't matter," Samsel said. "Petal got hot when it counted and they're a good football team."
It's one that's been hitting on all cylinders behind two-time Gatorade Mississippi Football Player of the Year Anthony Alford. The senior QB has thrown for 1,892 yards and 17 touchdowns, in addition to a team-high 1,524 yards on the ground and 21 rushing touchdowns.
"I think we're a well-rounded football team," said Buckley, in his fifth season with the Panthers, "but offensively, everything is centered around what our quarterback does."
According to Buckley, who was an assistant coach under Curley Hallman at Southern Miss (1988-90) and LSU (1991-94), Petal had never won a MHSAA playoff game before this year, failing in 14 previous attempts.
For Olive Branch, the seventh North Half trip in school history was the lucky one, after last week's five-point victory against the Jaguars.
"There's been a lot of years that we've had really good football teams at Olive Branch," Samsel said. "(Tonight) has been a long time coming."
Olive Branch vs. Petal
What: MHSAA Class 6A state championship game
When, where: Tonight at 7 at Jackson's Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium
TV, Internet: Mississippi Public Broadcasting and misshsaa.tv
-- Chris Van Tuyl: (901) 333-2018
In Texas, Allen ISD has already gotten bounced from our playoffs after being a preseason national #1.
No telling with HS football.
Congratulations! I wish I could see the games.
As an aside, go Meridian Wildcats!
Who would have thought that a penalty for encroachment would lead to a win by Olive Branch? That was one of the strangest endings to a game that I have ever seen. The play of the game is given to the kid that jumped offsides before the kick that was good resulting in the whistle blowing before the kick. The subsequent kick was no good and Olive Branch wins the state championship.
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