The Petal Panthers find themselves back in the playoffs after finishing the season 10-1 and 7-0 in division play.
Leading the way for the Panthers’ passing attack is Decarlos Nicholson. The senior quarterback has passed for 1,439 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year. Nicholson has also rushed for 356 and added five touchdowns on the ground.
In the backfield for the Panthers are the dynamic senior duo of Rashad Handford and Micah Mcgowen. Both backs have totaled 1,977 yards and punched in 22 rushing touchdowns on just 287 carries, brining their average per carry to 6.9.
The defense has shined with 15 sacks and eight interceptions.
Coach Marcus Boyles and his team understand that the successful season will give them home-field advantage but it’s the win-or-go-home mentality that has them hungry for a state title.
“I feel like we have put ourselves in a position to make a good run in the playoffs,” Boyles said. “Our tough schedule has prepared us in many ways. We know how to close out games. We also know how to maintain leads. We have been fortunate enough to get some guys in the game to get some experience and that will make us deeper as we head into playoff time.”
This week the Panthers will host Biloxi. The 8-3 Indians rush the ball really well with approximately 204 rushing yards per game. Biloxi has found the end zone 38 times this season.
The Panthers look to bring the momentum of a near flawless season and put it to the test as they start the opening round of the playoffs.
“Biloxi’s offensive line is really big,” Boyles said. “Their quarterback is extremely athletic and along with him they have some great skilled players. They want to play ball control with their opponents. Against Gulfport they nearly had the ball double the amount of time as their opponent. We need to make sure we continue to move the chains and take care of the ball.”
“We are still looking to get better each week,” Boyles said. “I think our mindset has not changed. It’s a new season for us. There are not any bad teams left and we have to show up and play. It is huge to have home-field advantage. We don’t have to worry about travel so this is big for our team. We are looking forward to the challenge and ready to get things started.”
Before the game the Panthers are recognizing all school employees. Petal has finished as the No. 1 school district in the state and will take the time out to show its appreciation.
“It’s an honor for us to have the school staff that we do,” Boyles added. “When you are the best, then you are obviously doing something right. It’s special that we get to show appreciation for those that do the behind-the-scenes things that make us special with our program. It just shows how tremendous our community is and what makes us truly great.”
School recognition will start at 6:30 and kickoff is set for 7pm at Petal High.