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By STAN CALDWELL
NEW AUGUSTA – After an unexpectedly poor start to the season, Greene County was looking to vent some frustrations against a neighboring rival.
The Wildcats played a nearly picture-perfect first half and coasted to a 42-14 victory over Perry Central Friday night at Howard Mixon Field on the PCHS campus.
Both teams will head into their respective region play beginning next week at 1-4 overall.
“We talked a lot this week about the military term, ‘full effect,’ where you get the full impact of circumstances,” said Greene County coach Michael King. “We’ve been tested, we’ve been bludgeoned and bruised and beaten up. We’ve just kept saying, ‘we’re getting the full effect, and it’s going to turn around as long as you keep showing up and working hard.’ And the kids have done that.”
Greene County looked anything but a winless team against the Bulldogs. The Wildcats had the football five times in the first half and scored touchdowns on all five drives.
Here’s how dominant Greene County was in the first half. The Wildcats totaled 309 yards of offense, racked ups 14 first downs, were 3-for-3 on third downs and had just two penalties for two yards.
“I’ve got to give credit to God for giving me the ability to do this, and I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my offensive line for giving me plenty of time to throw,” said Coby King.
“We came in two receivers missing, and we didn’t think (senior) B.J. (Johnson) was going to be able to play, but he surprised us and dressed out. We were planning all week on running the ball, but sometimes you never know how these things are going to work out.”
King was deadly in the first 24 minutes, completing 14 of 15 passes for 246 yards and three touchdown passes, two going to Johnson, who was back in the lineup after missing three games with an ankle injury.
“It feels amazing to be back with my brothers,” said Johnson, who caught four balls for 112 yards, all in the first half. “There was energy on the field tonight from being back out there with my team.”
The Wildcats won the pregame coin toss, and took the ball to start the game, going 58 yards on seven plays with the opening kickoff.
Junior Keenan Franks gave Greene County good field position, taking the kickoff 30 yards to the Wildcat 42, then had a 6-yard reception, and runs of 3, 7 and 6 yards, the third run resulting the score.
“The line did their thing tonight,” said Franks. “We’ve been pushing those boys all week in practice, and they answered the call tonight.”
Franks finished the night with 82 yards on 14 carries, and caught five passes for another 69 yards.
Perry Central was able to move the ball at times, especially on its first possession, driving to the Greene County 13 yard-line.
“I think we’re doing a good job of getting our guys the ball in space,” said Perry Central coach Nick Griffin. “We’ve just got to be more consistent and eliminate penalties. We had no problem moving the ball tonight, but we had a problem finishing drives.
“We need to be more focused and locked in. We’ll keep working hard and keep getting better.”
Freshman Kameron Moody had a 25-yard run on the Bulldogs’ second play of the drive, then junior quarterback Austin Jones hooked up with senior wideout Kaden Bolton for pass plays of 12 and 10 yards.
However, on a fourth-down play, Jones’ pass to Bolton in the end zone was picked off by Wildcat sophomore Javon Watts.
“We work hard at practice every day, trying to do our best,” said Watts. “We hadn’t won a game yet, so it felt good to come out here and get a victory, and to let everyone know that Greene County is still in this.”
The Wildcats wasted little time in making the Bulldogs pay. A 9-yard pass to sophomore Lakeus Franks netted 10 yards, then King connected with Johnson for a 46-yard pass p lay to the Perry Central 9-yard-line. Two plays later, Keenan Franks barreled in from seven yards out for the score.
“I think we’re kind of being overlooked a lot, because of our record,” said franks. “People have been talking crazy about us. But we’ve got our guys together, everybody is still playing hard, and now we’re 0-0 going into region.”
The Bulldogs were able to pin Greene County at its own 3-yard-line after a 47-yard punt on the ensuing possession, and the Wildcats were penalized for a yard each on back-to-back snaps.
But King found Johnson for a 13-yard pickup on third down, then had a 20-yard pass play to junior Ka’Den Blackston and a 13-yard pass to Keenan Franks, and it was Lakeus Franks who got the score on a 19-yard catch-and-run.
“We were still undermanned a little bit coming into the game, with injuries and stuff,” said Michael King. “But at some point, we’ve got to take the guys who are healthy and put a product on the field with what we have available.”
“And I think we did that tonight. We added a tight end and a fullback on the field with only two wide receivers, and they did a great job of mixing things up a little bit.”
Perry Central’s one shining moment in the first half came on a third-and-long from the Bulldog 25, when Jones found Bolton along the left sideline. Bolton sidestepped one tackler then burst into the open field for a 75-yard scoring play.
The Wildcats simply shrugged off the mishap, taking their next possession for another score, this one on a 12-yard pass from King to Johnson.
“It was kind of a game-time decision on whether B.J. would play,” said Michael King. “He’d gotten an MRI results back midweek and we weren’t sure how much he could do. But he’s a difference-maker out there.”
“When you have a guy like that out there, who is such a vertical threat, you can throw it to him underneath, because nobody’s going to walk up in his face and guard him, so he can take off, and he knows what to do with the ball when he gets it.”
A three-and-out gave Greene County the ball right back at their own 14, and the Wildcats needed only five plays to cover the 86 yards to paydirt. A 21-yard pass to Keenan Franks got the drive started, and the score came on a 41-yard catch-and-run by Johnson.
“We’ve got to stop waiting until the second half to start playing defense,” said Griffin. “I think we’re solid across the board there; we only gave up seven points in the second half. So we can play back there, we’ve just to do that for four quarters.”
Perry Central had some chances to narrow the margin in the second half, but a third-quarter drive inside the Wildcat 10 only resulted in Watts’ second interception of the night, beating Bolton to the ball in the corner of the end zone.
“I didn’t think too much about him having a size advantage; I just tried to play my game,” said Watts. “I just had position and the ball was a little underthrown.”
Greene County tacked on another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter on a five-play, 93-yard drive.
A 32-yard pass from King to Blackston on the first play of the drive got the Wildcats out of the hole, and King got the score himself on a 50-yard run on a keeper.
For the game, King was 20 of 23 passing for 293 yards and three touchdown passes to go with his running score and 61 yards on the ground.
“Coby’s got that dawg in him,” said Johnson. “His legs can run for him, but his arm is just as good. You can’t ask for a better quarterback. This game is going to give us a lot of momentum going into region play. This is what we needed to get back on track.”
Bolton got Perry Central a consolation score late in the game on a 26-yard reception, capping a fine evening’s work, as he caught eight passes for 166 yards. Jones was 19 of 29 for 279 yards passing for the Bulldogs.
Greene County will be at home next week to open Region 8-4A play against Bay High, while Perry Central travel to Biloxi next week to kick off its Region 8-3A slate against St. Patrick.
“We grew up a lot tonight,” said Michael King. “We had the one play, where we jumped inside and let the guy get free along the sideline. But other than that, we kept everybody in front of us, we tackled well. If we can continue to do that, we’ve got a chance.”