Better late than never: Big second half propels IAHS

PHOTO BY SCOTTY NICHOLS I BUY AT PHOTOS.ITAWAMBATIMES.COM Caleb Whittle delivered an eight-reception, 107-yard performance that included a touchdown in Friday's 40-13 rout of Saltillo as an encore to last week's three-catch, 121-yard and one touchdown effort against New Albany the previous week.

PHOTO BY SCOTTY NICHOLS I BUY AT PHOTOS.ITAWAMBATIMES.COM
Caleb Whittle delivered an eight-reception, 107-yard performance that included a touchdown in Friday’s 40-13 rout of Saltillo as an encore to last week’s three-catch, 121-yard and one touchdown effort against New Albany the previous week.

By SCOTTY NICHOLS
Sports Writer

SALTILLO – It took a while for all the oars to start rowing in the same direction for the Itawamba AHS Indians but, when they did, it wasn’t pretty for the Saltillo Tigers.
Overall, the Indians, ranked No. 1 in the Daily Journal’s large school poll, find themselves in a much different situation this season than last.
At this point last year, the Indians were writhing with a 1-2 record and couldn’t really get things going in the right direction.
This year they’re 3-0 heading into a bye week, and the latest victim is Saltillo, who was on the wrong end of a 40-13 thrashing after a bit of a slow start from IAHS at their home field last Friday.
“It feels a lot better this year,” said senior quarterback Vijay Miller. “We weren’t very upbeat at this point last season. We have our heads held up with the 3-0 record this year and we’re ready to improve.”
Miller, who has torched all three defenses he’s faced, has completed 63-percent of his passes for 775 yards and seven touchdowns, and has yet to throw an interception.
Miller has also added 228 rushing yards and three scores.
The senior signal-caller was especially efficient against the Tigers last week, completing 18-of-23 attempts for 248 yards and four touchdowns while adding another 100 yards and a score on the ground.
Things started off in a similar fashion as week two’s game against New Albany, as IAHS scored on their first possession, and then rode the brakes for the remainder of the half.
Miller hit Ha’kee Rainey for an eight-yard touchdown on a swing pass to cap off the initial drive, then found Caleb Whittle streaking down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown later in the quarter.
The Indians were blanked in the second quarter, as Saltillo got a pair of 40+ yard field goals off the leg of kicker Drake McCarter, and held a slim 13-6 advantage at the half.
Things would go downhill for the homestanding Tigers in the second half, though.
The Indian defense would force a quick three-and-out to start the third quarter, then Miller would cap off a six-play, 92-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown run that was set up by big runs from Hunter White and Rainey.
After another quick Saltillo punt, Miller and the Indian offense made quick work of the Tiger defense by traveling 76 yards in just five plays, with the latter resulting in a 26-yard touchdown strike from Miller to Taylor Mears.
Early in the fourth quarter, Miller hit Rainey in stride for a 44-yard touchdown pass, just before wide receiver and backup quarterback Austin King stepped under center to finish the night for Miller.
Leading 33-6, King broke a tackle around the right end and no one would catch the 6’4” athlete once his long legs hit their stride down the home sideline.
King housed the quarterback keeper on an 89-yard run to give the Indians a commanding 40-6 lead with just under six minutes remaining in the contest.
The Tigers got a late score in mop-up duty from Dontell Young and the Indians cruised to an easy 27-point victory, thanks to a relentless second half effort.
IAHS only led 13-6 at the half, despite outgaining the Tigers in total offense 279-67.
Miller accounted for 348 yards of total offense and five touchdowns on the night to lead the Indians.
“We go as Vijay goes,” said IAHS coach Clint Hoots. “He’s done a tremendous job so far this season. He is very efficient, but he notices every throw he doesn’t make. He busts his rear end every week to correct the mistakes that he notices, and that’s what makes him a special player.”
Whittle had his second consecutive huge night receiving for IAHS, as he hauled in eight of Miller’s completions for 107 yards and a score, as an encore to last week’s three catches for 125 yards and a touchdown against New Albany.
White went over the 100-yard mark for the third straight game with 112 rushing yards on 11 carries, but was held out of the end zone for the first time in 2015.
Rainey has come to provide a spark in both the running and passing game, as he had a huge night with 154 total yards (85 receiving, 69 rushing) and two touchdowns.
Jamal Shumpert and Tray Miller led the Indian defense with eight tackles apiece, and Daniel Freppon finished the night with seven tackles and a pair of quarterback sacks.
IAHS will benefit from a bye week this Friday and will be back in action against Aberdeen, who is the second-ranked small school in the Daily Journal rankings, on September 18 for Homecoming.

scotty.nichols@journalinc.com
Twitter: @ScotNic24

About Scotty Nichols

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

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