By Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal
ECRU – A little bit more of a passing game made a lot of difference in the effectiveness of North Pontotoc’s ground game.
Caleb Mills completed 8 of 13 passes for 128 yards, Mitchell Cunningham ran for 254 yards and three TDs and Shemiah Carter rushed for 104 yards and a score as the Vikings took down Rosa Fort 34-18 on Friday.
It was the Division 2-4A opener for both squads, and the first 1-0 start in district play since 2008 for North Pontotoc, which improved to 7-0.
“We knew they were going to be big and that they were fast, and we did a lot of work on our passing game this week,” said North Pontotoc head coach Brian Sutton. “We threw the ball around a little bit and that helped us.”
The Vikings also got a lot of help from Rosa Fort (3-3, 0-1), which had an open date last week and never got into sync.
The Lions committed eight turnovers – most coming in a dismal first half for the Tunica County squad.
Turnovers prove costly
“We turned the ball over five times in the first half, and you can’t beat anybody with five turnovers,” said first-year Rosa Fort coach Edwin Norwood. “You take those away and it’s a totally different ballgame – like a 20-18 ballgame.”
North opened scoring late in the first quarter after Carter, a senior, picked off a pass from Rosa Fort’s Calius Dunn. Cunningham broke loose on the next play with a 56-yard TD run with 58 seconds remaining in the quarter.
An interception by Adrian Davis in the final minute of the first half set up Cunningham’s second score on an 8-yard jolt.
“They were real physical, but our line came out and was smashing,” said Cunningham, a senior. “I knew the holes would be there, so I just put my head down and ran.”
North Pontotoc visits division rival New Albany (5-2) on Friday night.