By NEMS Daily Journal
CUMBERLAND – A summer’s worth of hard work went right up to the last minute and was rewarded in a big way Friday night.
East Webster, playing on its campus less than four months after it was ravaged by an April 27 tornado, held on to beat Vardaman 13-12 in the season opener for both teams. The field was ready just in time: The goalposts were erected Friday afternoon.
After the victory, the Wolverines bused to their new fieldhouse in nearby Mathiston. With the old fieldhouse destroyed, a new one was built in a week’s time.
“It was real emotional,” first-year coach Doug Wilson said. “We’ve worked hard to even be able to play; it was a monumental task.”
The game itself came down to the final minute.
East Webster, a Class 2A school, pulled ahead with under four minutes to go in the game on freshman Monterries Davis’ 6-yard touchdown run. Vardaman, of Class 1A, had its chance and drove deep into Wolverine territory.
But with the clock winding down, the Rams couldn’t convert a fourth-and-long as the quarterback fumbled the shotgun snap.
“It was so crazy, I don’t know the real particulars of it,” Wilson said.
East Webster’s other touchdown was a 2-yard run by Darius Dear, which gave his team a 7-6 lead in the second quarter. Vardaman answered with a 6-yard TD run by Cody Jenkins to take a 12-7 edge into halftime.
The Wolverines kept pounding away on offense as the defense stiffened up. DeAngelo Liggins had a big fumble recovery, and Wilson credited a couple of big McKinnely Hollinhead punts with helping win the field position battle.
“We moved the ball when we needed to,” Wilson said. “I think we threw it three times.”
It was an extra-special night for Wilson, who had served as an assistant under predecessor Jimmy Carden for 10 years. He deflected praise to an experienced staff of assistant coaches and was pleasantly surprised by how his young players performed.
“We really didn’t have but two kids that had played four full quarters on defense, and two on offense, so we were worried about depth, especially the second half. But they responded well and caused key turnovers, and we capitalized on turnovers.”