By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
SHANNON – The Shannon Red Raiders are proving they can take a punch.
The Red Raiders have certainly stuck their chin out against schools like Aberdeen, Tupelo, and Lafayette.
And the Pontotoc Warriors came out swinging Friday in the Division 1-4A opener for both squads.
But the Red Raiders survived a determined early swing by the Warriors to pound out a 36-20 victory.
“It’s division play, and you try to do everything you can to win,” Shannon head coach Darryl Carter said. “We did a good job hold them to a field goal early.
“But the main thing, this was the first division win. We needed to get the better taste out of our mouth from a 1-4 start.”
Pontotoc (3-3, 0-1) made a determined effort early, executing an onside kick to begin the game, eventually getting a 42-yard field goal from Jeb Millender. The Warriors followed that up by blocking Shannon’s first punt, with Deonte Dillworth getting the block, then scooping up the loose ball for an 18-yard return to give the visitors an early 10-0 lead.
But Shannon (2-4, 1-0) withstood the early haymaker from Pontotoc , thanks in part to the efforts of Diamonte Pounds, Devan Gilleylen, and John Thomas Peugh.
Gilleylen had 160 passing from the quarterback position, including 56 key yards on Shannon’s second possession. That set up a 14-yard touchdown run by Chavis Dillworth.
Still in the first quarter, the Red Raiders then reeled off a 97-yard drive, capped by a 15-yard pass from Gilleylen to Cameron Montgomery, that pushed Shannon in front 14-10.
Then the Raiders started pounding the ball on the ground. A 54-yard run by Peugh at quarterback set up a 5-yard run by Pounds in the second quarter.
Defense rises up
Getting past the effectiveness of the Shannon offense, which featured 232 rushing yards by Pounds, the Raiders defense had some key series.
Besides holding Pontotoc to a field goal in the first quarter, the Raiders stopped the visitors on downs in the red zone late in the first half, and held the Warriors to a 22-yard field goal to begin the third quarter, which pulled the score within 21-13.
From there, Gilleylen scored a 1-yard TD, and Pounds a 3-yard TD in the fourth quarter to ice the win. Dillworth added a late 6-yard score for Pontotoc.