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Quitman eyes roll into 4A playoffs

By By Jeff Byrd/The Meridian Star
Nov. 1, 2001
This has been a historic season for the Quitman Panthers. In the 20 years since the Mississippi High School Activities Association instituted playoffs for football, the Panthers were never part of the fun.
Until now. Last week in Mendenhall, the Panthers wrapped up a playoff berth with their first-ever win over the Tigers.
Quitman, 6-3 overall and 4-1 in Region 5-4A, has assured itself of no worse than a No. 2 seed for the upcoming 4A playoffs. That means Quitman will be at home for its first round playoff game on Nov. 9.
There is a chance Quitman could still grab the No. 1 spot from Region 5 if West Jones were to upset Northeast Jones on Friday. Quitman would also have to beat Northeast Lauderdale. The Trojans of Coach Andy Stevens will see their season end on Friday. Northeast has lost six straight games since opening the season at 3-0.
Injuries have taken big toll on the Trojans. They lost their best playmaker in fullback Marcus Betts in the fourth week of the season with a shoulder/rib injury. Tailback Kelvin Horne went down with a knee injury after the Mendenhall game.
Now, Northeast has lost its top linebacker and Betts' replacement at fullback in Tyrone Ivy.
Playing tough has been something Quitman has done well at all season. And they've been awarded that previously elusive playoff berth.
The Panthers are led by receiver/return man Marcus McCormick. McCormick has returned a pair of punts back for touchdowns. He also had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown at Mendenhall.
Quitman got a lift from back-up quarterback Jonathan Russell. Russell completed eight of 15 passes for 90 yards and two TDs. He also kicked two extra points.
Russell may draw the start against Northeast. If he does, former starter Prentiss Davis would shift to receiver.
The Panther defense, which had a shutout against Magee and limited region front-runner Northeast Jones to a single touchdown, is led by a strong defensive front.
End Fred Carter applies the pressure along with down tackles Dustin May and D.J. Sparks. Linebacker Marcus Moore continues to lead the club in tackles.
Northeast will be led by quarterback/receiver Steven Dyess who'll be in his final game as a Trojan. Sophomore Rod Smith will probably open at quarterback with Ed Pierce and Curtis Harrison in the backfield. Pierce will also replace Ivy at linebacker.
Jeff Byrd is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. He can be reached at 693-1551 or by e-mail at jbyrd@themeridianstar.com.

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