• John Macon Gillespie

Jefferson, North Panola Building On 2016 Season

Panola county is some of the most fertile ground in all of Mississippi when it comes to producing football talent. North Panola isn’t the largest school in the county, but it’s no exception when it comes to sending players to the next level.

Recently the program has seen former stars Willie Hibbler and Justin Conner sign with nearby Ole Miss.

Last season the Cougars essentially hit the restart button. First year head coach Carl Diffee started 12 new players en route to a 10-3 record. You can read more on that from coach Diffee’s perspective in a recent story from Jared Redding.

One of those new faces, sophomore KJ Jefferson, quarterbacked the Cougars to a 6-0 start and eventually guided them into the second round of the playoffs.

“We just came together as one. We set our goals high and challenged each other to become a dynamic program,” Jefferson told SES Mississippi.

After throwing for 2,406 yards and 29 scores, to go with nearly 600 yards and another eight touchdowns on the ground, last season Jefferson is looking for more in the coming season. He wants to do something no other quarterback has done in the red and black.

“I want to become the first North Panola quarterback to win the state championship,” He stated.

“I plan on going undefeated this year and getting to the championship and bringing it back to Panola county.”

Jefferson knows a run of that kind will require a continuation of the commitment his team has already shown. That, along with the continued development of a young team, is sure to make the Cougars real contenders in 2017.

“We have to take responsibility to another level and take on challenges, not go away from them,” Jefferson said. “It’s going to take a team effort. That’s why we hold each other accountable for everything we do.”

That level of commitment can’t begin when the season does, however. It must be instilled in the offseason. Obviously, that process started last offseason, but as Jefferson stated, it has to go to the next level.

This spring it did. The Cougars defeated White Station(TN) 28-14 in the spring game. Moving the ball at a quicker pace was an area Jefferson and the offense worked on this spring.

“Our spring went really well,” Jefferson said. “We focused on our throwing game a lot more. And setting the tempo of the game higher and higher.”

“I improved most with my footwork, speed and getting the ball out faster.”

Jefferson isn’t settling on his improvements, though, as he has big goals to get better with numerous physical and mental aspects of his game the rest of the offseason.

“I want to become a better leader on and off the field,” He stated. “Also, I want to get all my mechanics down pat so I can be a better quarterback. I'm working to get bigger and faster. And to be able to pick the defense apart every time I am on the field.”

#NorthPanola #JohnLukeMcCord

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