By Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal
PONTOTOC – It was going to be hard to top last season’s match between these county rivals: a double-overtime, loser-go-home nailbiter.
But they get high marks for effort.
North Pontotoc, winner of a 51-50 scoring fest against Pontotoc in the 2010 regular-season finale, came out on top 14-10 in a defensive battle against the Warriors on Friday.
It was the first win by the Vikings (5-0) on their rivals’ home field.
“Our kids played hard and didn’t get down about things and finished it up,” said North Pontotoc coach Brian Sutton, whose squad was averaging over 54 points a game going into Friday’s matchup. “This is really the first time we’ve had to play four quarters and be in a ball game.”
Pontotoc (4-1) appeared to have the upper hand midway through the fourth quarter. Trailing 14-10, it drove from its own 12 on two big passes by Rashad Dixon – one to Will Dillard for 16 yards and another to Shaquille Crayton for 23. Deonte Dilworth helped with runs of 10 and 3 yards as they pressed to North’s 24.
That’s when the Vikings’ defense buckled down.
Shemiah Carter picked off a pass from Dixon intended for Crayton on the left side of the goal line with 4:28 remaining to thwart the comeback.
“He was throwing for Shaq and the ball went up for grabs, and I just went up and made a play and got the ball,” said Carter, a senior defensive back.
It was the only miscue by Dixon, who completed 6 of 14 for 86 yards and had the same number of yards rushing. The junior quarterback also accounted for Pontotoc’s only touchdown with a 2-yard run on the final play of the first half.
The teams were tied 7-all at halftime. North’s Mitchell Cunningham opened scoring with a 2-yard plunge with 4:40 showing in the second quarter. He finished with 13 rushes for 128 yards.
Pontotoc’s Jeb Millender booted a 27-yard field goal with 3:28 remaining in the third to put the Warriors ahead 10-7. On the next play, Carter took a shuffle pass from Caleb Mills 70 yards for a score to give North enough for the win.
“We could move the ball, we just couldn’t stick it in when we needed to stick it in,” said first-year Pontotoc coach Ken Byars.