Calhoun City targets first state title since '89

CALHOUN CITY – The Calhoun City football team has been perfect on the field, but away from it hasn’t been such smooth sailing for the Wildcats.
The Daily Journal’s top-ranked small school improved to 15-0 on the year with a 30-19 MHSAA Class 2A state semifinals victory over West Bolivar on Friday night. Calhoun City has outscored its 15 opponents by a combined 551-148.
Just six days before their semifinals game, the Wildcats starting quarterback, J.R. Jennings, was behind the wheel of a car that flipped and hit a light pole sideways.
“I was coming over a hill and it was really foggy and an animal shot across the road,” said the senior player, who will likely have to rehash the incident during this morning’s MHSAA Football Championships news conference at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson. “I tried to dodge it and I lost control.”
He would be all right, though, as he practiced all week and happened to have a near flawless game against West Bolivar, completing 13 of 20 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for a 7-yard score.
“We had to hunt him down to find out about the story ourselves,” Wildcats head coach Perry Liles said about Jennings’ accident. “Things like that happen in a season. We’ve had grandparents die. Things are going to happen.
“We’ve had others who’ve been injured – break their legs – and we’ve gone through that with people and they’re all back now.
“And J.R. just had to add to the little story. But I’m glad he made it through it, and really, we were blessed on that. We sure were.”
Calhoun City will now play in the 2A state championship game against Lumberton on Friday afternoon at Mississippi Memorial Stadium in Jackson. Many of the Wildcats players, including Jennings and three defensive linemen, started and played on the 2008 team that lost to Puckett, 25-21, in the 1A state title game.
“This is a core group that’s been there,” Liles said of his current junior and senior players who played on that ’08 state runner-up team. “So, it’s really the same team, basically.”
Minus a few exceptional players from the ’08 team, Calhoun City will look to win its first state championship since 1989. The last time the Wildcats played in the 2A state title game was in 2006 when they lost to East Marion, 36-27.
Calhoun City has lost its last two state championship game appearances – in 2008 and 2006 – by a combined 13 points.
“I feel like we can pull it off this year,” Jennings said about his team heading into this week’s title game.
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@djournal.com.

John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal