Tigers capitalize on miscues, down Indians 22-7

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Thomas Blake (10) and Tray Miller (8) bring down Saltillo quarterback Tristen Daniel as Jamal Shumpert (32) comes in to assist. (Photo by Scotty Nichols – CLICK PHOTO TO PURCHASE A PRINT)

FULTON – The Robert Louis Stevenson novel “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” could accurately describe the Itawamba AHS Indians’ season so far, especially on the offensive side of the football.

In week one, the Indians turned the ball over five times and were plagued by penalty flags in a 34-21 loss to Ripley.

In week two, the Indians appeared to correct the previous week’s mishaps and played relatively error-free football en route to a 35-0 shellacking of the New Albany Bulldogs.

This past Friday night, it seemed as if the week one IAHS team was back.

The Indians fumbled the ball four times, losing two, and turned the ball over on downs twice for a total of four total turnovers in their 22-7 loss to the Saltillo Tigers. The Indians also did themselves no favors in the penalty department, as they were flagged for eight penalties for a total of 60 yards.

“Defensively, we did a pretty good job of containing them for most of the night,” IAHS head coach Toby Collums said. “Offensively, we just made too many mistakes that kept them on the field.”

The game was a well-contested 7-7 knot through halftime, as Saltillo scored in the first quarter on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Tristen Daniel to Chase Traylor before IAHS answered with a 15-yard touchdown strike from Vijay Miller to Russell Bunch in the second quarter.
The Indian touchdown came on the heels of a 37-yard Anfernee King interception return, which set up the IAHS offense in the red zone.

On the drive following the IAHS score, Saltillo coughed the ball up with a fumble. It was recovered by Jamal Shumpert at the Tiger 30, but the Indians promptly moved backwards due to penalties and were forced to punt.

The Indians missed out on a golden opportunity to take a firm grip on the game by failing to capitalize on the Tiger mistake. They would not see a similar chance until the third quarter.

With IAHS trailing 13-7 after a partially blocked punt set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Daniel in the third quarter, Bunch recovered a muffed punt to give the Indian offense the ball near midfield.

Miller hit Ha’kee Rainey over the middle for a 24-yard gain on a nice run after the catch, but two plays later IAHS would fumble the ball away to the Tigers which eventually set up a 31-yard Drake McCarter field goal.

Instead of utilizing the possession to re-take the lead, a turnover extended the game to a two-possession Saltillo lead, 16-7.

The Indians gave a great effort in the fourth quarter as a 27-yard burst by tailback Hunter White gave the Indians a first down in Tiger territory, but a couple of incomplete passes and a quarterback sack ended the threat.

The last legitimate push that IAHS would make would come on the next possession as White, Miller, Rainey and Chris Chandler combined for 50 yards on the ground to give the Indian offense a first down at the Tiger 12, but four consecutive incomplete passes ended the drives and any hope for an Indian comeback.

The IAHS defense did a relatively good job containing Saltillo running back Diamante Pounds, but his running in the second half helped to sustain Tiger drives and his lone touchdown of the night was a back-breaker that put the game well out of reach.

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IAHS quarterback Vijay Miller looks for an open receiver as Micah Laney blocks a defender. (Photo by Scotty Nichols – CLICK PHOTO TO PURCHASE A PRINT)

With 0:45 seconds remaining in the game, Pounds took a handoff off tackle to the right and raced into the end zone for a touchdown that extended the Saltillo lead to three possessions, 22-7.

Pounds finished the night with 160 yards rushing on 24 carries and had only one touchdown, which is a compliment to the Indian defense, as it was a relatively quiet night for him.

Amidst offensive miscues, the Indians still received very good play from Miller, who finished with 137 yards on 14-of-24 passing with a touchdown. Through halftime, Miller connected on 9-of-10 passes for a remarkable 90 percent completion clip.

Rainey also continued to prove himself a dynamic weapon for the IAHS offense, as he finished the night with six receptions for 93 yards, averaging 15.5 yards per catch.

Despite the turnovers and penalties in the two IAHS losses, they have very much been in each game down to the wire. If mistakes were cleaned up the Indians could very well be 3-0 at this point.

“We started behind the chains on four out of about five or six possessions in the first half,” Collums said. “Coach Byrd’s been doing this for a long time, and he knows what to do defensively when you put yourself in that kind of hole.”

The path doesn’t get any easier for the Indians as they will make consecutive trips to Center Hill and Aberdeen in the next two weeks.

“We’ve got some tough matchups ahead, but I’m not worried about who we’re playing nearly as much as I am getting us fixed,” Collums said. “We have got to develop some offensive consistency.”

scotty.nichols@journalinc.com

About Scotty Nichols

Graduate of THE University of Mississippi. #HottyToddy. I like sports. And BBQ.

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