By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
CALHOUN CITY – J.R. Jennings walked away from a horrific car accident last weekend.
On Friday night, he and his Calhoun City High teammates walked away from their home field a winner.
Jennings, who totaled his car last Saturday night, threw for 174 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for a score to lead the Daily Journal’s top-ranked small school (15-0) to a 30-19 MHSAA Class 2A state semifinals win over West Bolivar (12-3).
The Wildcats will play Lumberton (13-1) in next Friday afternoon’s 2A state championship game in Jackson. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. at Mississippi Memorial Stadium.
“If you had seen the car, it looked like we all should have died,” the Wildcats quarterback said about his wreck last Saturday night after swerving to avoid an animal.
His teammate, Demarius Howard, was just seconds behind Jennings in another vehicle on the night of the accident. On Friday night, the two were together on seven passes for 127 yards.
“He’s the real deal, also,” West Bolivar coach Henry Johnson said about Howard. “They ran the doggone comeback route on us five times for first downs, and we can’t stop it.”
After Jennings gave his team a 14-7 lead on a 7-yard touchdown run just halfway through the second quarter, Howard returned a punt 62 yards that would give the Wildcats all the points they needed.
“That big punt return,” said West Bolivar’s Johnson, “whoa, did that hurt in the first half.
“That punt return we gave up made it 21-7. We could have went in (at halftime, down) 14-7 and I thought we possibly could have had a better game.”
The Eagles got their only points of the first half – and the first score of the game – when quarterback Kylan Johnson found Terrance Matthews in the middle of the field for a 53-yard touchdown reception. That touchdown at 6:49 of the first quarter was West Bolivar’s only lead of the night.
The Wildcats got on the board when Aaron Thompson ran a shovel pass from Jennings six yards into the end zone with 2:34 left in the first.
Calhoun City scored first in the second half on a safety and then again on a 3-yard run by Avery Hill.
Johnson found Matthews once more in the second half, this time for a 12-yard TD reception to pull the Eagles to within 17 with eight minutes to go.
The West Bolivar quarterback then ran in from 14 yards out to make it a 30-19 game, but the ensuing onside kick didn’t work out in his team’s favor and Calhoun City ran out the clock.