By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – The Pontotoc Warriors were in a giving mood on Friday night.
And the Shannon Red Raiders had the weapons to take advantage of Pontotoc’s generosity.
Three Pontotoc first-half turnovers were converted into 21 points as Shannon cruised to a 35-7 victory in the Division 1-4A opener for both clubs.
“I told the guys we’ve got to take advantage of any turnovers, we did tonight,” Shannon coach Chad Cook said. “We’ve been through a bunch as a team this season, and I’m proud of the guys sticking together.”
It did not take long for the theme of the contest to become apparent as Shannon’s Nick Pack came up with the first key turnover of the contest, an interception midway through the first quarter. Shannon took only two plays to go 15 yards, with quarterback John Thomas Peugh going the last yard for the touchdown.
The Raiders (3-3, 1-0) use the more conventional method to score next, forcing a punt then driving the football down the field. An 11-play drive, all on the ground, was capped by a 1-yard run by quarterback Devan Gilleylen on the second play of the second period.
Pontotoc (4-3, 0-1) made an offensive stand in response, driving 56 yards in seven plays on the ensuing possession. On a fourth down play, quarterback Rashad Dixon arched a nice pass in stride to Shaquille Crayton for the score midway through the period.
But the turnover bug hit Pontotoc twice more in the half.
The first time was a fumble that Shannon turned into a 49-yard TD pass from Gilleylen to Pack. A second straight Pontotoc fumble turned into a 31-yard scoring pass to Pack in the closing seconds of the half for a 28-7 lead.
“Our defense played well tonight, but turnovers put them in a bad position,” Pontotoc coach Ken Byars said. “Take those turnovers away, and its a close ball game.”
The Warriors totaled six turnovers in the contest, with an interception halting a drive in the red zone in the third quarter. Then in the fourth period, a Marcus Thornton interception set up a three-play drive, capped by a Bodarius Taylor 9-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.