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By RUSSELL TURNER
Any concerns over how the Greene County Wildcats would come out of the gate their region opener against Sumrall were answered pretty quickly last Friday as the Cats scored twice in the game’s opening moments on the way to an impressive third straight win.
The Cats had been eyeing their bye week as an opportunity to rest and recover after an injury-plagued non-region schedule. But GCHS was white hot after a 50-29 win over Gautier and didn’t want to lose any momentum. Add in the distractions that typically accompany Homecoming week and it wouldn’t have been a total shock if the Cats would have come out a little flat against the Bobcats.
Coach Mike King’s team wasn’t having any of that.
Sophomore Dallarus Cooper returned the opening kickoff 95 yards and freshman K.J. Miller broke free for a 49-yard TD scamper moments later as the Wildcats roared out to a 14-0 lead in the first 77 seconds. The end result was a dominating 49-7 win that pushed the Wildcats to 3-3 overall and 1-0 in Region 7-4A.
“It sure seemed as though we were a stap quicker and as physical, or more physical, than we have been all year long,” King said. “You never know what to expect on Homecoming because of the distractions associated with it, but I think our players were very focused and energized.”
“They were very loose before the game in the locker room.”
The Wildcat defense did its part in the fast start, forcing turnovers on each of the Bobcats’ first two possessions. A fumble recovery by senior Ladon Woullard at the Sumrall 49 set up Miller’s touchdown. Senior Keldrin Blackston scooped up a fumble at the Sumrall 19-yard-line a couple plays later that led to a 7-yard touchdown by senior quarterback Drake Henderson to put GCHS 20-0 with nearly nine minutes left in the first quarter.
“I thought the bye week was perfectly timed,” Defensive Coordinator Jacob Aycock said. “Our guys came out and played with a renewed energy and stayed focused for four quarters.”
“I am very proud of how we rallied to the ball and played more physical than our opponent.”
Miller broke free for another nice TD run midway through the second quarter, this time a 61-yarder, to extend the lead to 28-0. Cooper capped an 8-play, 52-yard drive with an 8-yard TD run with 2:55 on the clock and the Wildcats strolled into halftime leading 35-0.
The Bobcats came up with a turnover of their own midway through the third quarter, recovering a GCHS fumble inside the Wildcats’ 10-yard-line. They converted that into their only scoring play of the game to close the gap to 35-7 with 5:36 remaining in the quarter.
That was as close as the visitors would get. GCHS answered with a 48-yard drive to push the lead to 42-7. A 5-yard run by Henderson capped that 9-play march with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
An interception by senior Gary Hawthorne Jr. stopped the Bobcats’ next possession, but the Cats weren’t able to convert the turnover into points. The defense took matters into their own hands on its next trip onto the field when freshman Devin Dueitt picked up a Bobcat fumble and turned it into a 35-yard scoop-and-score touchdown and a 49-7 lead with 1:36 left to play.
GCHS has now forced a turnover in every game this season and the four takeaways against the Bobcats pushed the Wildcats’ turnover total to 14 through the first six games.
“We focus on turnovers and takeaways,” Aycock added. “We talk it every day, over and over. That’s what we strive for and celebrate.’’
Woullard led the Wildcats with eight tackles, while senior defensive ends Hunter McLeod and Josh Bolton each followed with five. Seniors Kade Kittrell and Joe Dearman added four tackles apiece.
Offensively, Miller led the Wildcats with his second straight career-best night on the field. The freshman speedster finished the game with 186 yards and two TDs on just six carries. Cooper added 48 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, while senior Anthony Calhoun carried 12 times for 47 yards. Henderson connected on 4-of-10 passes for 25 yards. He also ran for two TDs and four 2-point-conversions.
Sophomore kicker Conner West was 3-of-4 on extra point attempts.
Cats head to Brooklyn to take on FCAHS Aggies
With the win, GCHS improved to 3-3 overall and 1-0 in region play. They will look to claim their fourth straight win and move to 2-0 in Region 7-4A this Friday when they travel to Brooklyn to take on the Aggies of Forrest County AHS.
The Aggies are off to a 2-4 start to their season and are 1-0 in region play after a 44-0 loss to Poplarville last week. FCAHS started the season with a 33-6 win over Perry Central, but dropped three straight losses to Pass Christian (14-38), Bay High (14-17) and West Marion (7-47). They defeated Northeast Jones 14-3 in their final non-region game, but could not hold that momentum against the region’s defending champs.
Leading the way for the Aggies on offense is senior Devonte Dixon (#2, 5-7, 197). Despite missing two games, Dixon is the Aggies leading rusher, averaging nearly 138 yards per game on the ground, with five touchdowns. He has also thrown for 110 yards and a TD.
Seniors Evan Clark (#6, 5-11, 185) and Cole Kendrick (#8, 5-10, 192), along with junior Josh Daniels (#24, 5-8, 160) also factor regularly into the Aggies’ running attack. Dakota Evans (#1, 6-3, 175) and Gage Glover (#9, 6-2, 245) are the team’s top receivers.
Clark and Glover are also the Aggies’ leading tacklers. Kendrick leads the team with two interceptions.