By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
SHANNON – It was not a must-win situation for the Itawamba AHS Indians or the Shannon Red Raiders on Friday.
But there was a carrot dangling out there for both – win and earn a home contest in the first round of the playoffs.
The Red Raiders embraced that challenge with an excellent second half of balance on offense and a stingy defense, coming from behind to down the Indians 42-21 in a Division 1-4A matchup that gave Shannon the No. 2 seed from the division.
“I thought that was the best second half we’ve played together all season,” said Shannon coach Chad Cook, whose Red Raiders will host a first-round 4A playoff game next week. “I thought we were playing good in the first half, then all of a sudden I look up and we’re down.
“I thought we played with a lot of energy and passion tonight.”
Shannon (7-3) needed that passion in the second half after falling behind 21-13 in the first two periods of play.
Offensively, the Raiders displayed a nice second half offensive balance with the running of Bodarius Taylor and the passing of Legibert Bogan. A key fourth-down scramble by Jake Scott on Shannon’s opening possession of the third quarter set up Bogan finding Keyon Lowery for a 37-yard touchdown that knotted the score at 21-21.
Bogan, who passed for 171 yards, continued the Shannon momentum with a 26-yard scoring strike to tight end Devan Gilleylen later in the period. Taylor, who paced himself nicely to total 187 yards rushing, put Shannon up two scores in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard scoring run.
Chavis Dilworth then iced the victory just two plays later with a 30-yard interception return.
“I thought we played well, then things started to go against us,” said Itawamba coach Ashley Kuhn, whose Indians are the No. 3 seed from 1-4A and will be on the road for the first round next week. “Shannon had a good game plan, and we were not able to run the ball as often as last week.”
In the Indians’ previous game, quarterback Maikhail Miller had carried the ball 45 times for over 200 yards. Shannon basically shut down that option from the first quarter on while jumping to a 13-0 lead.
Shannon scored first on a 6-yard sweep by Marcus Thornton. Then the Raiders added a 20-yard interception return by Thornton for its early advantage.
Though held in check for the most part on the ground, Miller broke free for a 26-yard touchdown run late in the first period.
And while yards were hard to come by on the ground, Miller unleashed 139 yards through the air, including a second quarter scoring strike of 34-yards to Jimmy Ruff. Two plays later, Shante Rogers return an interception 60-yards to give the Indians the halftime lead.