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September 14, 2013TweetFollow @LukeMatheson Follow @arkansasvarsity
NORTH LITTLE ROCK - The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats fell just short of defeating the number 37 ranked team in the nation, as South Panola handed them their first loss in a 24-23 thriller.
"I'm really proud of how our kids played," said North Little Rock head coach Brad Bolding. "They didn't give up and they played hard. Big plays hurt us. There is a lot to learn from the game. This team is one of the top in the nation, and I'm really excited about how we played. We will learn from it, and become a better football team because of it."
The game was a defensive struggle early, with North Little Rock striking first as defensive back Payton Holmes intercepted a South Panola pass, and returned it 56-yards for the score with 9:23 to play in the first quarter.
South Panola would answer just a little over a minute later in the game, as quarterback Rip Kirk finding running back Darrell Henderson on a screen play. Henderson would out run North Little Rock defenders as he scored from 76-yards out.
North Little Rock kicker Sandy Burks gave the Charging Wildcats their second lead of the night with 4:54 to play in the first quarter, as he hit a 32-yard field goal. However, South Panola would answer with 2:18 to play in the quarter as Henderson ran 80 yards for his second score of the night.
"Henderson is a junior and we think he has got a chance at being an SEC type back," said South Panola head coach Lance Pouge. "He had a little tweak tonight, but he played through it, so we are proud of that."
The third quarter was another defensive battle, as only three points were scored. That score came with 6:02 to play as Steven Collins hit a 25-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 17-13 advantage.
South Panola would score again on the first play of the fourth quarter as Kirk connected with Cole Rotenberry from 26-yards out to put his team up 24-13.
North Little Rock wouldn't go down without a fight though.
Quarterback Heath Land connected on a screen play with Juan Day for a 67-yard touchdown as Day dodged defenders along the sidelines with 10:52 to play in the game. Burks would kick his third successful field goal with 5:43 to play in the game as he connected from 25 yards out to bring the score to 24-23 in favor of South Panola.
"Juan thrives in that kind of environment," said Bolding. "He likes competition and to play against kids who are really good. I was really proud of how he played."
Day would finish the evening with 23 carries for 143 yards, and three receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown.
It appeared that North Little Rock would have a chance to potentially score a go ahead score as they held the South Panola offense on the next drive, but Dashawn Lindsey took a fake punt 32 yards deep into Charging Wildcat territory.
Following a series of penalties, Kirk would punt the ball into the end zone for a touchback, leaving North Little Rock only 33 seconds to get down field for a potential sore.
Land would throw two incomplete passes before he connected with K.J. Hill for a 10 yard pass. Land would then spike the ball to kill the clock, and was sacked on the very next play. After North Little Rock was able to get an injured player off of the field, the clock ran out before Land was able to snap the ball, allowing South Panola to escape with the one-point victory.
"I am proud of our team for overcoming a lot of penalties and big plays tonight," said Pouge."We just kept grinding and battling all night against a team with an SEC tail back, and we were able to overcome. I'm proud of my team for getting this win tonight."
ArkansasVarsity.com Player of the Game : South Panola running back Darrell Henderson. He had a big night, amassing 245 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
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