By Zach Adams/The Itawamba County Times
WATER VALLEY – Coming off a tough 20-13 loss to Aberdeen last week, the Water Valley Blue Devils were battling for playoff positioning Friday night when they hosted the upstart Mantachie Mustangs in the regular-season finale.
Led by sterling efforts by quarterback EJ Bounds and running back Jarard Williams, who combined for five first-half touchdowns, the Blue Devils distanced themselves from the Mustangs early and cruised to a 56-3 victory. With the win, Water Valley locked up the division’s No. 2 spot and a crucial first-round home game.
“We had a tough game last week, but the kids had a great week of practice and responded well tonight,” Water Valley coach Brad Embry said.
“Our seniors came out and set the tempo. This was the last home game we were guaranteed because with a loss we would have been on the road, but I’m proud of how our guys responded.”
The Blue Devils (9-2, 4-1 Division 2-3A) scored early and often to open the game as their four drives resulted in touchdowns. Bounds scored on a quarterback keeper from 16 yards out to open the game, then hit Williams for a 30-yard TD strike minutes later.
Bounds found the end zone again, this time on a 19-yard scamper that was quickly followed by a Williams 40-yard jaunt to cap a 27-point first quarter explosion.
Mantachie (5-6, 2-3) moved the ball well early and scored their only points of the contest on a Dustin Carrell 26-yard field goal after a drive stalled at the Water Valley 8.
Two more scores in the second, runs of 25 and 56 yards by Williams and Brandon Bounds, led to a 41-3 margin at the half.
A pair of 51-yard runs in the third and fourth quarters by Elijah Rogers and Robert Mays put the finishing touches on a dominating performance.
“Obviously we have our weaknesses just like every other team,” Embry said. “We just need to identify those and get a little bit better in all areas of the game as we move into the postseason.”