MOOREVILLE – Mooreville defensive back Drew Hart was enjoying the moment Friday night.
His Troopers, 1-9 a year ago, used a goalline stand in the final seconds to defeat Kossuth 17-13 for their fifth consecutive victory.
“This is wonderful … to be a senior and be 5-1,” said Hart, who slapped away a third-down pass by the visiting Aggies on their final possession. “What’s amazing is we’ve won five in a row after our record last year.”
Kossuth marched from its own 33-yard line to the Troopers’ 11 in the final 4 minutes, 13 seconds. Facing a fourth-and-9, quarterback Wesley Box found his receivers, including his favorite target, 6-foot-2 Daniel Cooper, covered. He took off up the middle, but was stopped at the 3 by the scrambling Mooreville defenders with under a minute left.
“Our defense stepped up when they had to,” Mooreville coach Kevin Austin said. “We had good coverage. (Box) wanted to throw a dump ball to (Cooper).”
The Troopers, who trailed 6-3 at halftime, got a kickstart from 5-4, 157-pound tailback Gary Johnson, who raced 60 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the third quarter.
The junior finished with 174 yards on 13 carries.
“It was an off-tackle play,” Johnson said. “I just read my blocks. It all starts with the line. We just needed to get something going.”
Down 10-6, Kossuth (0-5) scored on a 17-yard pass from Box to Cooper to go ahead 13-10 late in the third quarter. The two Aggies hooked up for an 8-yard scoring strike in the first half. On the play, Cooper caught the ball after it was tipped by Hart.
Mooreville’s lone first-half points came on a 26-yard Matthew Pannell field goal in the opening quarter.
The Troopers answered Kossuth’s third-quarter score with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Griff Loftis to Johnson on a swing pass. Pannell’s extra point gave Mooreville its 17-13 lead with 3:14 left in the quarter.
“Last year when we got hit in the mouth we wouldn’t have come back,” Austin said. “We would have lost that game. I’m really proud of my players.”
Mooreville opens Division 2-3A play next week, hosting South Pontotoc. Kossuth hosts undefeated Belmont for its 1-3A opener.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal