New Coach, Class, Era for the Petal Panthers

First year head coach, Steve Buckley, replaced Bubba Davis in January as the head football coach of the Petal Panthers. Davis resigned soon after the '06 season to accept the head coaching job at New Albany. Davis left after just two years with a 14-7 record which includes an 8-3 record in '06 and back to back playoff appearances leaving Buckley with the expectations to continue a winning program.

Steve Buckley isn't new to football. In fact, Buckley's last coaching job was with Southern Miss in 1998. Buckley actually started coaching in 1986 in the preps rank at Petal. After that, Buckley served as an assistant at Southern Miss from 1988 through 1990, went on to LSU from 1991 through 1994, coached the George County Rebels in 1995 and 1996.

"I try to break football season down like a calender into four seasons. I think you start off in January to really work on strength which takes you to spring. Spring is three weeks of fundamentals and you find out more about players abilities, then summer rolls around and you work on conditioning, and when season arrives, I tell the kids to have fun playing the game." Buckley says.

The Panthers have 15 seniors on the roster, two starters on offense and three on defense. "We've lost several key players from last season but we've got some young players who looks to step up." "I think last years team was geared around two division 1A players, which was rightfully so. Our philosophy this year is spread it out more. We're going to throw the ball a lot but focus on the run," Buckley says.

On offense, Mitch Kennedy is a returning starter who saw limited action as a junior due to a knee injury. Kennedy averaged over seven yards per carry with five touchdowns. Junior, Ryan Barrett is the other returning starter on offense who will be a load at center. Up front, the Panthers are looking at three sophomores who will be big and strong. Melvin Meggs is one to watch at tackle. At quarterback, Drew Carruth will have some big shoes to fill to Southern Miss signee, Darin Farris. At the receiver slots, players such as Nick Jones, Parker McLain and Tavarese Maye will have to step up and replace the All-State star, Jerry Duncan. Junior, Isaiah Newsome started at defensive back as a sophomore who looks to play both offense and defense this year. Isaiah is brother to Frank Newsome who both were teammates last season. Frank received a scholarship to Pearl River CC

On defense, the Panthers will have three senior lineman returning. Ricky McClemore, Brandon Jordan and LaJerius Magee. McClemore has put on about 15 pounds from last season who had 113 tackles, three QB sacks and recovered one fumble. Magee had 74 tackles, three QB sacks, recovered three fumbles and had nine QB hurries at defensive end. Jordan had 42 total tackles, eight for a loss and three QB sacks.

Look for Petal to be strong and very conditioned as they move up a class, from 4A to 5A. The Panthers face Lawrence County August 31st, the first game of the season. Sammy owns and operates Pine Belt Elite at www.PineBeltElite.com

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