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August 8, 2010

No. 5 South Panola tries for another streak

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 on July 26 and will release two groups of five teams per day. Then, we'll do a daily countdown from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Monday - two weeks from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Sept. 1 for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.

The team rankings were compiled by high school sports senior analyst Dallas Jackson, the Rivals AMP team, football recruiting analysts and the entire RivalsHigh network of publishers.

In case you missed it: Previous ranking groups | Post your thoughts about the rankings

Top 100 countdown
No. 5 South Panola, Miss.
COACH:: Lance Pogue
LAST SEASON: 14-1, Mississippi Class 6A State Champions
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 11 in RivalsHigh 100

It isn't quite as impressive as the 89-game winning streak that made them famous, but the Batesville (Miss.) South Panola Tigers enter the 2010 season on a 13-game winning streak.

"That streak brought a lot of attention to our program," coach Lance Pogue said. "But all those wins won't help us on the field this year."

If this year's Tigers - which begin the year ranked No. 5 in the RivalsHigh 100 - want to add to the current streak, they will have a few tests in front of them.

"Our three toughest games this year will all be on the road," Pogue said. "We have [Moultrie (Ga.)] Colquitt County, [Memphis (Tenn.)] Memphis University School, and Olive Branch [(Miss.) High] away from home. All of those teams are darn good."

Colquitt County checked in at No. 35 in the RivalsHigh 100 this season, and while South Panola may be ahead in the rankings, Pogue is trying to position his team as the underdog.

"The pressure is all on them," Pogue said. "The state of Georgia looks at Mississippi like a little stepchild in high school football. They turn their noses up at us. For us it is an opportunity to gain respect."

For a team like South Panola, which returns eight starters on offense and nine starters on defense, it will be hard to convince many outside of its locker room that this squad will be underdogs.

"We bring back a lot," Pogue said. "I think the kids got some good seasoning last year and this is the first time we have had this much experience coming back."

So, the underdog role? Really?

"We will still be going on the road, to a very hostile environment," Pogue said. "That team is going to be faster than us and we will have to play well."

That may be true, but South Panola will still have some of the strongest talent in the country on the field.

Leading the way will be one of the best players nationally, Nickalos Brassell.

Brassell is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the state of Mississippi and the No. 76 player nationally.

"We will have him out wide, and in at running back, and returning kicks, and probably as a defensive back," Pogue said.

So pretty much all over the field?

"He does everything so well and he won't come out. We can't get him off the field," Pogue said.

The one new wrinkle at South Panola will be the increased use of the passing game.

Kendrick Market, a Rivals.com three-star defensive back, will line up in the shotgun for South Panola this year.

"We are going to throw more this year than normal," Pogue said. "We will also run a lot more Wildcat stuff than ever before. We will be wide-open and multiple for the first time in a long while."

And don't think the usual tenacious defense will go away.

"We bring back three of our front four, a couple linebackers, and our secondary may be the best in the state," Pogue said. "We really have a chance to be good."

So good, in fact, that it may be the beginning of another streak.

"I don't know about another streak starting," Pogue said, dismissing the idea. "We have to go on the road and play some tough teams. Our sights are really set on winning another state title."

With a perfect season, there could be a realistic shot at a national title as well.

"If we get out to a good start to the season, and play good football, I think we have what it takes to be there in the end," Pogue said.

Even if he thinks they are underdogs to begin with.

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