Bobcats playoff loss to Leflore County ends season

By JAMES PHILLIPS,

The Sebastopol Bobcats traveled to Itta Bena and ran in to a Leflore County team that was firing on all cylinders last Friday night in the opening round of the MHSAA 1A state playoffs. The homestanding Tigers dominated the game from the opening kickoff to the final horn, and ended Sebastopol’s 2019 season with a 42-0 shutout.

Leflore County is one of the hottest teams in Class 1A and entered last Friday’s game on a 7-game winning streak. Sebastopol could not get anything going on offense, mostly because of the play of the Tigers’ defense, and was only able to gain 157 yards on offense while being held scoreless in the loss.

The Bobcat offense goes as junior quarterback Jaden Mann goes, and he was held in check by a strong Leflore County defense. Mann gained over 200 all-purpose yards in most of Sebastopol’s 12 games this season, but last Friday he was held to only 131 all-purpose yards and no touchdowns on the night.

The home team came out of the gates fast. The Tigers scored two first quarter touchdowns followed by another in the second quarter score. The Tigers took a 20-0 lead at the half, and got right back to work on offense when the second half got underway.

Leflore County added two third quarter touchdowns and a final score in the fourth and final frame, and the scoreboard was all Leflore at 42-0.

As a team, Sebastopol made significant improvements in head coach Nickey Mooney’s second year at the helm. The team finished the year with an overall record of 7-5 and a 5-3 district record. The Bobcats fought and won their way to a third-place finish in Region 4, and a playoff berth.

The difference in Mooney’s football team this year was very noticeable on the football field. The Bobcats ended this season with a winning record both in their overall season record and district record after suffering through a losing season in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons,

Sebastopol won more football games this season than the combined total of the previous two seasons. This is a clear indication Coach Mooney has his team improving and the football program trending upwards for next season.

Sebastopol quarterback Jaden Mann, a junior who transferred from Leake County before the school year, led the way on offense the entire 2019 campaign. He finished the year completing 52 percent of his passes (80-of-150) for 1,161 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging just under 100 yards per game passing.

On the ground, Mann was a ball carrying workhorse who averaged 18 rushes per game. He averaged 113 yards rushing per game, with a total of 1,351 yards (6.3 yds/car) on 215 carries while finding the endzone for touchdowns 17 times for the offense. He also added one kickoff return for a touchdown to bring his season total to 18 TDs.

Sophomore Jacob Williams emerged as the Bobcats’ leading receiver when it came to catching touchdown passes. Williams had 5 scoring receptions on the year.

Jaheim Johnson was the overall leading receiver hauling in 28 receptions for 405 yards with three touchdown receptions, and accounted for 788 all-purpose yards.

Senior linebacker Reggie Shepherd, who played on both sides of the ball in every game while also handling kickoff and punt return duties, led the way for the Bobcat defense. Shepherd accounted for 97 tackles (55 solo), with 14 of those stops coming behind the line of scrimmage for a loss. He added three quarterback sacks and one interception that he returned 65 yards for a defensive touchdown.

Jaheim Johnson was a ball hawk on defense and made a big impact for the Bobcats-D. He was responsible for nine total turnovers. Jaheim intercepted seven passes from opposing quarterbacks and recovered two fumbles.

The Bobcats enjoyed a successful 2019 season and Coach Mooney and his returning players will be working hard to use this year as a stepping stone for years to come.

“Our team had some really big wins this year, and we started to learn what it means to win at a higher level,” Mooney said. “We made some big strides over the previous year and we were in some games that showed this team what it takes to beat really good football teams. Overall I’m very excited about the direction our football team is heading in.”