Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hawks pick up first win


It was hard to tell who was happier Friday night, the Holly Springs High School football players or their first year head coach Clifford Brown.

There was loads of excitement from everyone on the home side of Sam Coopwood Park as the Hawks recorded the first win of the Brown era, 15-9 over North Panola.

“It feels great,” said Brown, who was drenched with water from a cooler by his team as the clock wound down. “I’m so proud of the kids. They’ve worked hard and deserved the win.”

Holly High improved to 1-3 overall, but more importantly it was a victory in their first district game of the year. North Panola dropped to 1-3.

Holly High running back Marcell Johnson, who missed the first three games of the season, put on a show. He carried 19 times for 185 yards and scored the team’s two touchdowns.

“He’d been running well in practice,” Brown said. “We gave him the opportunity Friday night in the ball game, and it paid off.”

Johnson’s big run on the Hawks’ opening possession pushed the ball to the North Panola 37. The home team then faced a fourth and four. Quarterback Marcus Isom recovered from a high snap, but his completion to Alex Anderson came up short of the first down.

The Cougars took over and picked up three first downs, two via the run and one via the pass. But the Holly Springs defense stiffened, forcing a fourth and four at the 23. That’s when the visitors were successful on a 38-yard field goal to take a 3-0 first quarter lead.

Pierre Thomas returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards, but the Hawks later fumbled the ball away.

Then the defense gave Holly High a lift, holding North Panola on a fourth and five try.

The offense responded, putting together a 58-yard scoring drive despite being hampered by penalties. Johnson ran for one first down and then darted 48 yards for the touchdown. Isom’s extra point kick gave the Hawks a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter.

Holly High’s stingy defense made that score hold until half. Isom picked off a pass and returned it 26 yards to stop one North Panola drive.

Then the Hawks were forced to punt on fourth and long when the snapped sailed over the punter’s head and a desperation pass try fell incomplete. North Panola took over at the Holly Springs 31-yard line late in the second period.

That’s when Marvin Lucas had a big tackle for loss and then Jeremy Boyd and Chris Bridgeforth sacked the quarterback for 12-yard loss, forcing the Cougars to punt.

“Our defense played well,” Brown said. “Most of those guys are back from last year. We put up some points offensively, but until the offense really gets rolling, the defense will have to carry us.”

The Hawks padded their advantage on their first possession of the second half. It was Johnson again. This time he dashed outside and then cut across the middle, out-running defenders for a 45-yard score. The Hawks lined up for the extra point kick, but a bad snap forced Isom to throw to Boyd for the two-point conversion and a 15-3 lead.

Holly High threatened again later in the third quarter when Isom found his big tight end, LeCorey Jones, open on a short toss over the middle. Jones got loose for 43 yards and a first down at the North Panola 14, but a penalty and another blunder ended the drive.

“We have to play better offensively and not shoot ourselves in the foot,” Coach Brown said.

The Hawks’ Jonathan Jones recovered a fumble to end the third quarter.

The Holly High offense converted a fourth and inches on its next drive before failing on a fourth and 13.

The Cougars then cut into its deficit, thanks to a 55-yard touchdown toss and catch. The extra point try was no good.

The Holly Springs defensive secondary rose to occasion late. North Panola tried to rally through the air but good coverage by the Hawks led to three straight incompletions on one drive, and then Thomas tipped a pass that was intercepted by teammate Anderson late in the game to thwart the Cougars’ last hope.

“The secondary is revamped,” Brown said. “That group has jelled together, and they stepped up and helped us get the win.”

Holly Springs stays within the district this Friday night when they journey to Water Valley, which is 2-2 on the year after a 42-21 loss last week to Senatobia.

“The win over North Panola was big for our confidence and big for our morale,” Coach Brown said. “I hope it makes for a good week of practice.”

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