Pieces coming together for Petal
PETAL - At the beginning of the 2009 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys unveiled one of the most impressive stadiums ever constructed. It is touted as the largest (and certainly most modern) in the world, highlighted by a 60-yard scoreboard and seating for more than 100,000 fans. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had a dream that began in 1994 to improve upon Texas Stadium, and he certainly has with Cowboys Stadium.
The Petal Panthers had a similar dream that began several years ago: To construct one of the most impressive stadiums in the state of Mississippi. The complex will seat 8,500 fans, consist of home and visiting field houses and concession stands.
"The stadium was one of the final phases for long-range planning the (school) board has worked on for so many years," said superintendent John Buchanan.
Unlike the Cowboys, the Panthers do not have the luxury of the stadium being built at another location. The Panther football team has sacrificed 30 yards of its practice field to construction work. Once the stadium is finished, the team’s current practice field will be converted into a parking lot.
"It is a little hard to focus for our guys with all of this noise and construction," said head coach Steve Buckley.
The $7.7 million football complex is scheduled to be completed at the beginning of the 2010 football season.
"It will be ready for next season, and we open up with South Panola," Buckley said.
Just another noisy day at practice
It was another Wednesday this week for Coach Buckley and his crew: The most intense work day of the week. The first-team offense and defense ran through plays like they have since the spring.
However, less than 10 yards away a bulldozer was ripping apart what used to be the Panthers’ practice field. Throughout the entire duration of practice, the bulldozer piled up dirt to be hauled away for the construction of the new complex. The players seemed to be unfazed by the work of the bulldozer and dump trucks and continued their reps.
The Panthers (3-2) host Ocean Springs (4-1) on Friday night.
After running through their offensive plays, the Panthers shifted their focus to the Greyhounds’ game plan. The coordinators took control calling out plays as the players began to scrimmage. Coach Buckley called his team together after running 30-45 plays that will be used Friday night.
"It is going to take extreme focus, and it will be the most physical football game of the year," Buckley said to his team in the huddle. "You will be better, we have to focus and be physical!"
Greyhounds will face a focused Petal team
Focus. Be physical. Just a few of the statements Buckley preached to his team.
The Panthers opened their season with two losses (South Panola and Oak Grove) but have rallied to win three straight (Hattiesburg, Mendenhall and Biloxi).
"It all starts up front with our offensive line," Buckley said.
Melvin Moggs, a 315-pound senior, leads the Panthers on the O-Line.
"He is an outstanding player, a great kid and has a ton of character," Buckley said.
Anothy Alford, the Panthers’ quarterback, is just a sophomore and has shown a lot of talent this season -- Alford ran for 152 yards against rival Oak Grove this season. He is complemented by a pair of running backs: senior Terry Davis and junior Maverick Parsons.
"Davis is hurt with a high-ankle sprain; we are hoping he can get out there Friday night. Parsons is more of our slasher back that likes to get in space," Buckley said.
Senior Calvin Jones leads the Panthers defensively with 44 total tackles.
"Jones is a great kid, and he really does an outstanding job for us on defense. He has started every game since his sophomore year," the coach said.
Despite the excessive noise of construction that presents a challenge to the Panthers every time they practice, this program has a bright future with a growing team and a new complex.
"It's going to be a great thing, not just for the football team and the school, but for the entire community,” Buckley said to The Petal News. "Over the next few years, the community will truly see the impact a new football stadium will have."
article updated on 10/2/09 10:10