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Impressive win at Sumrall earns GCHS No. 2 seed
By RUSSELL TURNER
Big-time teams come up with big-time plays in big games. The Greene County Wildcats did just that Friday night at Sumrall, defeating the Bobcats and one of the state’s most highly-touted offensive players to claim the No. 2 spot in Region 7-4A and earn home-field advantage in this week’s opening round of the MHSAA State Playoffs.
The Cats connected for six big touchdown passes, averaging 40 yards each, against the Bobcats. Not to be outdone, the GCHS defense all but shut down Sumrall’s Dannis Jackson, holding the senior Ole Miss commit to his lowest rushing totals of the season. The end result was an impressive 42-7 road win in the regular season finale.
“That was a big win for us,” head coach Mike King postgame. “I am very proud of the way our kids played.”
“It’s a cliché, but you want your team to be playing its best football at this time of year and I think we are doing that. We just need to keep it up.”
Greene County took a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game on a 47-yard pass from junior quarterback Jacob Mitchell to senior Kevin Dortch and extended the lead to 14-0 late in the first quarter when Mitchell found senior Santez Campbell for a 41-yard touchdown pass.
The GCHS defense came up with a huge stop with less than a minute left in the half when seniors Blake Daughdrill, Noah Mitchell and Drake Walley corralled Jackson on fourth down near midfield. That play turned out to be huge as Mitchell connected with Campbell for a big third down conversion along the visitor’s sideline and then spiked the ball at the Sumrall 23 to stop the clock. Mitchell then scrambled to avoid a sack and heaved a Hail Mary pass to the goal line in the center of the field. Senior Que Washum made the effort count, outplaying three Bobcat defenders to catch the ball at the Sumrall 6-yard-line and then find his way into the endzone with no time remaining on the clock.
“Obviously, that was a huge series of events at the end of the half to really put us in a good position,”
King said. “We got a big defensive stop and followed that up with a couple big plays to put us up 21-0 and give us a lot of momentum going into halftime.”
Junior Kade Kittrell made a big open-field tackle on Jackson to force a Sumrall punt on the Bobcats’ first possession of the second half. A few minutes later, Mitchell and Washum connected again, this time for a 52-yard TD to put GCHS 28-0 with 4:20 left in the quarter.
Sumrall responded with their best drive of the night and closed the gap to 28-7 thanks to a diving touchdown run by Jackson with 28 seconds left in the third quarter. But, that was as close as they would get. Needing a big drive to take time off the clock and kill any momentum the home team may have had, Mitchell and company responded with a 12-play march to effectively put the game on ice. Mitchell connected with Campbell for a 27-yard TD to cap the 72-yard drive and push the score to 35-7 with 7:38 left to play.
The Wildcats pushed the lead to 42-7 with three minutes remaining when Dortch caught a Mitchell pass for what was good enough for a first down, but turned on the burners and outran everyone 71 yards for the touchdown.
Mitchell had a career night to lead the GCHS offense throwing for 368 yards and six TDs on 18-of-27 passes. Dortch led Wildcat receivers with 128 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions, while Washum had four catches for 102 yards and two scores. Campbell had another stellar night, catching four balls for 80 yards and two TDs and also rushing for 66 tough yards on 16 carries. Juniors Peyton Roberts and Drake Henderson each had two receptions for 29 yards.
“Offensively we were up against one of the better defensive lines in the district,” King said. “They were very difficult to run the football on and played us in a man-to-man defense as well, which we were not expecting because of what they had shown in the past. Because of the type of coverage and the way that stacked defenders at the line of scrimmage we were able to pick up explosive plays in the passing game.”
“I am not sure if 368 yards passing and six TDs is a school record, but it has to be close. But, I guess I was most pleased that we put (Sumrall) away. We talk to our players about how good teams finish ball games and we finished well.”
Defensively, the Wildcats held Jackson to just 37 yards rushing on 16 carries and kept the Bobcats’ high-octane running game to just 93 yards. They held Sumrall to 196 yards of total offense, which was also a season low for the Bobcats.
Junior linebacker Ladon Woullard led the Cats with 10 tackles, while senior Noah Mitchell and junior Jaheim Cooper each added seven. Kittrell and junior defensive end Hunter McLeod had six tackles apiece, while Daughdrill, Walley, A.J. McGee and Malachi Graham posted five each.
GCHS was also solid on special teams. Senior Josh Cook was perfect on PATs and the kick and punt coverage teams did a solid job of keeping Jackson and the Bobcats from breaking any big plays in the return game.
“The biggest takeaway from Friday night was the fact that we held a Div. 1 athlete in Dannis Jackson in check most all night,” King added. “Near the end of the first half he had 11 carries for 17 yards.”
“Our defense has been so consistent this year and has been especially effective at stopping the run. I am very proud of the effort on that side of the ball.”
With the win, GCHS improved to 8-3 on the season and 4-1 in Region 7-4A. Sumrall slid to 8-3 with all three losses coming to region foes. The Wildcats finished second in the region and will host McComb on Friday in the first round of the playoffs. Sumrall finished fourth in region play and will travel to South Pike (Region 6-4A winner) on Friday.
McComb Tigers visit Friday for playoff battle
The Wildcats drew the McComb Tigers, the No. 3 seed out of Region 6-4A, as their opponents for the first round matchup.
A storied program with a lot of past success, McComb started this season out on a low note, but has improved to 4-5-1 with three straight wins to finish the regular season.
Their season opener against Port Gibson was ruled a tie, but after a 39-6 win over Hazlehurst, the Tigers went on a five game losing streak, dropping games to Tylertown (13-6), Brookhaven (33-3), Amite County (41-14), South Pike (38-14) and Lanier (24-21). They bounced back to earn a playoff berth with wins over Florence (40-35), Raymond (57-16) and Richland (40-14).
Like the Wildcats, they appear to be finding their stride at the right time of the year.
“McComb looks to be really talented, but also very young on their roster,” Coach King said. “They will give us multiple looks on offense and play a man-to-man style defense as well.”
Junior Ja’Qaveon Anderson (#12, 5-8, 155) leads the team with just under 100 yards per game rushing. Sophomore quarterback Chris Roberson (#1, 6-0, 165) directs the offense at quarterback, but averages just over 30 yards per game passing. Roberson had a 100-yard rushing performance against Florence to jumpstart his team’s winning streak.
Defensively, the Tigers are led by linebackers Qua’Tavis Harris (#8, Jr., 5-11, 215) and Brennen Felder (#2, Soph., 6-0, 180). Harris leads the team with 105 tackles, while Felder follows with 71.
The Tigers are prolific at creating turnovers and have seven interceptions on the season. Senior Kepatrick Magee (#5, 5-10, 155) leads the defensive secondary and has two of those interceptions.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Wildcat stadium.
Due to state regulations, only MHSAA State Passes will be accepted for admission. District and local passes are not valid for playoff games. Tickets for all playoff games are $8 each.
Fans unable to attend the game can watch the Wildcat’s live broadcast online at www.nfhsnetwork.com. But, King hopes Wildcat fans make every effort to pack the stadium in support of their team.
“We are thrilled to have a home playoff game and are hoping for a huge crowd,” King added. “There’s nothing like this time of year.”
Elsewhere in the playoffs…
The Richton Rebels have had a historic season this year and will play hosts to Heidelberg when the Class 2A playoffs get underway Friday. The Rebels are 7-3 on the season and 3-1 in region play, with their only region defeat coming at the hands of one of the best teams Collins has fielded in years.
The Rebels’ cross-county and Region 8-2A foes from Perry Central are also in the playoffs and will travel to unbeaten and top-ranked Taylorsville on Friday. The Bulldogs are the No. 4 seed with a 1-3 record in Region 8 and 3-7 overall.
In Wayne County, the War Eagles are 6-4 overall and, at 3-3 in region play, locked in a 4-way tie for the final two playoff spots from Region 4-5A. Wayne County takes on Gautier this Friday with the winner making the playoffs and the loser finished for the year.
Wayne Academy is 6-5 on the season after a 28-20 win over Stillman Institute (Clinton, La.) in the opening round of the MAIS AAA playoffs this past week. The Jaguars will travel to Raymond this week to take on 9-1 Central Hinds Academy in the second round.
George County will wrap up its season on Friday when Meridian comes to town for the final regular season game of the year. The Rebels are 3-8 on the year and 2-4 and outside the playoff picture in Region 3-6A.