Ruthie Robison The Choctaw Plaindealer
The French Camp Panthers are a game away from a trip to Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.
The Panthers advanced to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A North Half championship game after defeating the St. Joseph Fighting Irish last Friday night in Greenville, 31-18.
This is the first time since 1993 French Camp has extending their season to the third round of the MHSAA playoffs.
Having played each other earlier in the year as district opponents, both teams got off to a slow start in the Friday night showdown. The Panthers and the Irish were scorless for the entire first quarter.
In the second quarter, the French Camp offense was warmed up and ready to score. Junior Hagan Box led the Panthers with several big plays that gave French Camp momentum before halftime with a 17 point offensive explosive.
Early in the second quarter, Box made a 53-yard run down the field to set up a scoring opportunity for the Panthers. After Box’s run, junior kicker Sam Gould received the chance to grab a three point lead over St. Joseph with a 36-yard field goal attempt. Gould spilt the uprights giving the advantage to the Panthers.
The Panther’s next possession in the second quarter proved to be just as successful. Junior quarterback Jesse Hosket found Box with a 76- yard touchdown pass. Gould added the extra point advancing the French Camp lead, 10-0.
The Panthers scored again before halftime. Box continued to move the chains with a 36-yard run into Irish territory. From the 27-yard line, Hosket connected with Lovondra Carter in the end zone. Gould followed with the extra point increasing the French Camp lead, 17-0.
After trading possessions in the beginning of the second half of the game, the Irish turned to their passing game to produce points. Quarterback Raines Rester found Demanuel Bailey with a 41-yard pass. The Panthers blocked the St. Joseph extra point attempt.
The Panthers would not reach the end zone again until the fourth quarter.
After forcing an Irish turnover on downs, French Camp took possession of the ball on their own 35-yard line. The Panther offense began moving the ball. With 9:54 left in the game, Hosket found Box with a six-yard pass. Gould added the extra point for French Camp.
However, St. Joseph answered back.
Rester hit Hunter McGaugh with a 28-yard pass. The Irish failed to convert the extra points, but chipped away at the Panther lead, 24-6.
St. Joseph would score a final time in the playoff matchup. Rester connected with J’daylan Jackson on a 45-yard pass.
For most of the game the Irish were able contain senior running back Jaylon Clemons. However, St. Joseph defenders could not stop Clemons from entering the end zone during the entire game.
Clemons capped the 31-18 Panther victory with a 52-yard rumble down the field breaking tackles as he made his way to the end zone. Gould followed with the extra point.
Gould was 4-4 for extra points with one field goal adding a total of seven points for French Camp. Clemons had 19 carries for 132 yards with one touchdown. Box had 102 rushing yards and 88 receiving yards with two touchdowns.
Hosket was 5-15 through the air for 120 yards with three touchdowns.
The Panther defense shut down St. Joseph’s running game holding them to 94 rushing yards.
French Camp has a much-anticipated rematch with the Shaw Hawks this Friday night.
The Panthers will host the Hawks for the second time this season with the Class 1A North Half championship at stake.
French Camp and Shaw will enter the third round of playoffs with matching 10-2 records.
Earlier this season the Panthers defeated the Hawks with a 16-14 decision. Shaw will be ready to avenge their only Class 1A, Region 2, District 3 loss while French Camp will be looking for a chance to play for the state championship on Nov. 30.
The Hawks recently defeated Coffeeville in the second round of playoffs, 28-6.
The winner of this Friday night match will face either Bogue Chitto or Stringer both residing in Class 1A, Region 4, District 7.
Bogue Chitto (13-0) defeated Pelahatchie 25-22 while Stringer (11-2) defeated the defending Class 1A champion Noxapater Tigers 24-12 in the second round of the South Half playoffs.
Kickoff for the Class 1A North Half championship is set for 7:00 p.m. at French Camp.