Rebels headed to Hattiesburg for 2A title gameBy JAMES PHILLIPS PHOTO BY BILLY FREEMAN,
The rain held off all day on game day last Friday until just before kickoff of the 2A North Championship game between Scott Central and Calhoun City. On more than one occasion in the first half it was raining so hard that it was hard to see the players on the football field. The torrential downpour was a huge factor in the first two quarters of the game but the well coached and disciplined Rebels were ready for the challenge.
The first 20 minutes of the game saw both teams have trouble getting anything going on the soaked football field, but with four minutes to go in the second quarter the Rebels went on a scoring frenzy to take control of the game to determine who would move on to play for the 2A state championship. Within the last 4 minutes of the second quarter three Calhoun City fumbles quickly secured by the Rebel defense were turned into 21 unanswered points. Every time Calhoun City put the ball on the ground the Rebels made them pay by scoring touchdowns.
The Rebels would go in to half time with a 21-0 lead and would add another score and take down the visiting Wildcats 27-0 to earn the right to play for the state championship against Taylorsville.
Scott Central head coach Devine Cooper said, “We knew that the weather was going to be a factor and we preached all week about ball security and I’m proud of our offense for the way they played and they way they held on to the ball and ran it right at a good Calhoun City defense.”
The Rebel defense, aided somewhat by the weather conditions, turned in their second shutout in four playoff victories and have only allowed 20 total points over that 4-game stretch.
As the first quarter ended both teams were still struggling with the weather and field conditions and had not produced a threatening drive. As the second quarter got underway Calhoun City punted to the Rebels and they started a promising drive with senior Navonteque Strong at QB. After a couple of hard runs by Strong the Rebels had moved down to the CCHS 27-yard line. On the next play, with Hydee Barlow now at QB, the Scott Central coaching staff dialed up the perfect play. No one on the field, or in the stands, was expecting Barlow to drop back to pass, but that is exactly what the big senior did. He found Javarious McBeath wide open for a 27-yard TD pass that broke the scoreless deadlock and put the Rebels up 7-0 after the PAT.
“The Barlow pass play was just a great call at the exact right time by Coach Burtnett and the offensive staff,” Cooper said.
The Rebels kicked the ball to the Wildcats with 3:34 left in the half and they would start the drive at their own 10-yard line. On the second play of the drive the hard hitting Rebel defense caused another CCHS fumble which they recovered on the 10-yard line. The Rebels wasted no time capitalizing on the mistake with back to back Barlow runs with the second ending in the endzone for a 14-0 Rebel lead.
“Once we got the 14-point lead we knew it was going to be tough on their ground-and-pound running game,” said Cooper. “Jumping out to that lead really put the pressure on them to have to come back and catch us.”
After the ensuing kickoff Calhoun City was set to go to work from their own 35. But on the first play of the drive, and second consecutive offense play, the Wildcats fumbled the football and Zechariah Parodi grabed the ball for his second fumble recovery of the game. Fumbling the wet football would plague the CCHS offense all game and it was about to dig them into a 21-0 deficit just before the half.
Once again the Rebels wasted no time putting the ball in the endzone. On the first snap after the fumble Strong took the direct snap over the right side and left a wake of wet field and Wildcat defenders as he scored from 35 yards out to give the Rebels a dominating 21-0 lead at the half.
The second half would be all Rebels as the teams exchanged offensive possessions and punts and Calhoun City continued to have trouble holding the ball. The Rebels would add on a fourth quarter score to make the score 27-0 which is where it would stand until the end of the game.
“I just have to give credit to the players because they have earned this shot and everything they are getting to enjoy, but we are not done yet,” said Cooper. “Our coaching staff, both offensive and defensive have been tremendous and made some great calls in these games and we could not do this without them.”
With the win the Rebels are the 2018 2A North State Champions and will move on to face undefeated Taylorville (15-0) this Saturday on M.M. Roberts Stadium on the University of Southern Mississippi campus in Hattiesburg.