Here’s a little Christmas present for you – we asked the 11 primary writers who contributed to our high school football game coverage to share their most memorable moments of the 2013 season.
High school writer
It’s tough to pin down one highlight from the 2013 season, so I have a three-in-one.
There are good quotes. There are bad quotes. Sometimes you never know what you’re going to get when you stick a microphone in someone’s face.
Not the case with Johnny Hill.
You know what you’re going to get from Oxford’s head football coach – quality.
There are more, but here are three of the best quotes I was given in 2013, all from Hill.
• “He’s a war daddy,” Hill said of back Kenzie Phillips after a 220-yard night at Saltillo. I had to Google it.
• “They’re going to get all over us like a cheap suit.” – before facing Pearl in the playoffs.
• “That’s what they do and they don’t care if you know it. It’s red rover, red rover, we’re fixing to come over.” – on Picayune’s run game before the Maroon Tide beat Oxford in the 5A title game.
Senior sports writer
Call me old school, but I’m a “3 yards and a cloud of dust” type of guy. I love the wishbone, the power-I, even the mis-direction and fakes that come with a well-executed wing-T.
Run, baby, run. That’s exactly what the Picayune Maroon Tide did in its 5A state championship game 42-35 victory against Oxford.
The Tide lined up in one- and two-back sets and rushed the ball 64 times for 374 yards. One offensive possession was quite a jewel. Picayune marched 69 yards on 18 plays – all on the ground – and scored its touchdown on a 1-yard run. The yardage came in small chucks – 6, 3, 2, 3, 4, 6, 4, 3, 4, 5, 3, 3, 3, 0, 10, 4, 5, 1.
The eventual game-winning TD came on a speed sweep with Kardarius Cross motoring 75 yards.
Freelance writer assigned to Tupelo
From a strictly coverage perspective, the ride the Tupelo Golden Wave football team just took me and many others on was certainly a highlight of the 2013 season.
Who saw this coming?
In volunteering to cover the Wave this season, I had a couple of thoughts.
First, I knew they were going to be pretty solid defensively.
Second, I was curious about the offense, as were most people. Would we see the 2011 Amory Panthers offense which passed for more than 5,000 yards?
The Tupelo players gave us a GREAT defense, and the offense was still quite interesting moving from the spread to a goal line formation.
I saw more Tupelo football this season than I had in my previous 25-plus years combined.
All the praise the players and those associated with the team have gotten, do not do justice to having been there every game.
You guys rocked!
The most memorable thing about the 2013 high school football season for me was Smithville’s postseason run and getting to cover a state championship game for the first time.
From almost losing the chance to host a first-round playoff game after getting beaten by county rival Hamilton to North finals all the way in Vicksburg to that final rainy, muddy day in Jackson, it was a wild ride for the Seminoles.
Perhaps the game that was most characteristic of their 2013 season was Smithville’s down-to-the-wire, first-round playoff win over Shaw.
Down 20-8 at the half, the Seminoles stormed back for a 22-20 win that included a missed field goal that could have given Shaw the win in the final minute and a half of the game. The kick was wide right, and Smithville celebrated and didn’t slow down on the road to Jackson in the next three weeks.
Freelance writer based in New Albany
Amory and New Albany both missed the playoffs this year, but the final play of their game on Friday, Sept. 13, was as thrilling as it gets.
Tied at 7-all, New Albany pushed to Amory’s 25-yard line and set up for a 42-yard field goal with only 2.7 seconds remaining.
Amory’s Fred Garth blocked the kick behind the line of scrimmage, sending the ball bouncing to the left of the backfield.
That’s when Chris Brown saved the day for the Bulldogs.
The senior, from the left side of the offensive line, scooped up his team’s failed kick at about the 40, scrambled and broke through to the opposite side.
He breezed down the home sideline for a touchdown and a 13-7 win for New Albany.
“I saw the ball, and the next thing was to get it,” Brown said. “My guys blocked, and I ran to the end zone.”
My high school football highlight of 2013 was a game-deciding, Auburn-like miracle of a finish.
With 11 seconds remaining between the Falkner Eagles and Walnut Wildcats in the 12th annual Joe Bowl, Walnut trailed Falkner 33-32 after quarterback Jase Stroupe’s 12-yard pass to Chris Blackmon.
Just before the ensuing kickoff, Walnut returner Ty Huffman suggested they might have a shot to snatch victory from defeat with an impromptu reverse to fellow returner Armani Linton. With nothing to lose and having never practiced the play, Walnut coach John Meeks gave his blessing.
What a suggestion.
The Eagles chose a regular kickoff rather than a squib. Huffman fielded, made a clean exchange with Linton, then watched as he raced 70 yards for the improbable 38-33 game-winner. It was the game’s 11th lead change.
Meek’s first words about the play: “That was crazy…”
Missing so many weapons from 2012’s offensive juggernaut, the Itawamba AHS Indians had a rebuilding season in 2013 going 7-4 and losing 24-12 in the opening round of the 4A playoffs to Lafayette. The season was, however, not without its bright spots.
Week 2 provided a glimpse of the future for the Indians when, trailing 14-10 to New Albany with just a minute to play, sophomore quarterback Vijay Miller hooked up with senior Peyton Green for the first major impact play of his young career.
Miller hit Green streaking across the middle of the field for a 47-yard completion down to the Bulldog 9. On the next play another sophomore, Hunter White, burst into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. While Green’s career was winding down, two more were just beginning.
The North Pontotoc versus Kemper County playoff game was a wild one, with Kemper County jumping ahead 12-0 and North storming back to lead by 16 with 11 minutes left.
Then, like it usually will, a missed extra point came back to bite North.
The Wildcats were able to put together two touchdowns and two-point conversions to tie it at 34 and send the game into overtime.
After both teams scored on their first OT possessions, the Wildcats lined up to go for two and win. That puts a ton of tension on any team, and, as an impartial observer, you can’t help but have an uneasy feeling, seeing how North had let a big lead slip away. But North’s defense stepped up and ran down an open receiver on a swing pass to advance. It was a classic Mississippi high school game and big victory for North’s program.
Freelance writer based in Starkville
I saw something this season I thought I would never see covering a West Point football game, and that was a game where a total of 127 points were scored. West Point couldn’t stop the pass and New Hope couldn’t stop the run.
West Point had three guys rush for more than 100 yards, including Aeris Williams with over 200 yards and he didn’t play past the 10:00 mark of the third quarter.
Then New Hope quarterback Brady Davis threw for over 400 yards and had six touchdown passes. That night produced a trio of one-play scoring drives and three more two-play scoring drives.
In fact, at one point we had 22 points scored in a span of 39 seconds. Defense wasn’t even a rumor that night.
Freelance writer based in Booneville
While Corinth was the victim of a first-round Class 4A upset, the accomplishments second-year coach Doug Jones achieved impressed me.
The Warriors, led by a balanced running attack with Kendrick Williams, Brice Spence and Kyoshi Agnew all gaining over 600 yards, pulled off a 9-game winning streak that ended the regular season.
Jones kept opponents off balance with the pass, as evidenced in Corinth’s win over New Albany in a rain storm on September 20, and was not afraid to go for a 4th down (or two) each outing.
These gutsy tactics from the Warriors’ headman – and standout athletes – have Corinth firmly back in the football business for years to come.
New Albany Gazette
New Albany’s fourth-quarter rally against North Pontotoc proved some of the best football I saw all year. Down 21-7, the Bulldogs scored 14 points on a blocked field goal by Larenz Jones and a 94-yard touchdown run by Jarel Lipsey. The game marked homecoming for the Bulldogs and the late rally spoke to the heart and mindset of a team who never quit, regardless of what the scoreboard read.
That’s an element that was also apparent for the East Union Urchins, a group of athletes who learned how to play football and, also, how to become men through the life lessons taught on and off the field by Coach Scott Duley and his staff during their 8-5 season.