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Countdown To Kickoff: Pascagoula

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 10:59 PM CDT
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Prior to Wednesday’s news of Pascagoula High School shifting to virtual learning, WLOX caught up with the Panther football team on how they hope to build off of last year’s run that ended just short of Jackson.

The Panthers were less than a field goal separated from a South State title last year. Hungry to return in 2021, they haven’t forgotten how close they were.

“That’s motivation. We were two points away, one play away,” senior linebacker Fred Cook said. “Coach always tells us a football game comes down to six plays. You never know when those six plays will be, so you have to go hard every play.”

Last year’s offense averaged just 14 points per contest over the first three weeks, before exploding to average over 36 points over its final six regular season games played. With the majority of last year’s group back, the Panthers hope to pick up right where they left off.

“This year, we’re fine-tuning the little nooks and crannies of the offense to get everybody on the right page earlier,” head coach Lewis Sims said. “Hopefully that will show early in the season.”

Behind four returning starting offensive linemen is junior quarterback Keilon Parnell, who was responsible for 22 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards of total offense last year. He said he’s a whole lot more comfortable this time around.

“I’ve grown a lot, maturity-wise especially. Being out here, knowing the offense, second year offense, it comes easy,” Parnell said. “No new plays, it’s just more repetition. I feel like this year, it’s going to be more spectacular than last year.”

Just about seven months after playing quarterback for a South State football title, Parnell hit leadoff for the Panthers in the State Championship for baseball, making him no stranger to the big stage.

“The nerves and stuff like that, I learned how to calm it down and treat it like a regular game,” Parnell said.

The Panther defense is a walking embodiment of what the program hangs its hat on - a mantra they call ‘WARFACE,’ and it stands for...

“Work, attitude, respect, family, accountability and character, and then we play with enthusiasm,” Cook said. “No matter what, when we go on the field, we play with enthusiasm, no matter what the scoreboard says, no matter what the fans say, we play our Panther football.”

A year removed from a shot at a state title, the Panthers have their eyes fixated on getting back - and doing so while proudly wearing the blue and red.

“They want to go out and be contenders. They want to make sure they aren’t slept on, in the words of the kids,” Sims said. “They want to make sure people know where they’re coming from. They want to represent Pascagoula to the best of their ability and they want to do that every single day.”

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