Special to the Journal
CALHOUN CITY – Perry Liles stood five yards away from anybody as the second half of Friday’s MHSAA Class 2A football quarterfinal kicked off.
The Calhoun City head coach, alone in thought, hoped his team would maintain its intensity with a 21-point advantage.
The Wildcats gave Liles no reason to worry. Calhoun City’s defense and offense worked in sync to eliminate West Bolivar with a 27-8 victory.
With Baldwyn’s win, the Wildcats (11-3) will hit the road next week in search of their first berth to Jackson since 2010.
“I told them, ‘Play in the moment right now and don’t worry about when the next game is,’” Liles said. “We had to do what we’d been doing. I thought we played good.”
Calhoun City dominated the time of possession with its trio of talented backs. Levarious Varnado, Cartin McBride and Chakel Gates combined for 351 rushing yards.
Varnado scored all four Wildcat touchdowns. His first capped a 12-play, 79-yard drive that started after the senior two-way athlete picked off a Tyshawn Conway pass.
He added two more scores of 1 and 29 yards before the break to put Calhoun City up 21-0.
Another lengthy possession of 6 minutes, 36 seconds was capped by Varnado’s 11-yard dash for a 27-0 lead in the fourth.
In the game, the Wildcats limited West Bolivar to just seven drives and 14 total minutes, an average of two minutes per possession.
Calhoun City’s defense and special teams forced three turnovers and caused two unsuccessful fourth-down attempts by the Eagles (9-4).
Shaquille Wright generated one of the turnover on downs with a big pass break up. The senior linebacker led a defense that held West Bolivar to under 100 yards through three quarters.
“I’m very proud of these guys,” Wright said. “They’re like my family and I’m just glad that I’ve got them in my life.”
The Eagles only score came on a fumble recovery in the end zone by Hakeem Neal late in the matchup.
Varnado carried the ball 27 times for 165 yards. Conway led West Bolivar with 131 yards on 5 of 15 passing.