East Central rolled up 460 yards rushing to beat Forrest County AHS 48-14 in the opening round of the Mississippi Class 4A playoffs Friday.
“We had a physical advantage in terms of size,” said Hornets coach Seth Smith. “We wanted to use that to our advantage tonight. And, our backs ran really hard.”
Last year, the Hornets advanced to the second round, losing at Lawrence County 26-20 in double overtime.
“That was a tough loss, but we learned from it,” Smith said. “We used it for fuel this year.”
Tony Brown led the way for the Hornets with 208 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries. Brown now has 3,080 yards and 39 touchdowns on the season. However, topping 3,000 yards was not the most important item of the night.
“The key was getting the win,” Brown said. “We keep moving on in the playoffs.”
Brown also gave praise to his offensive line, led by Louisiana Tech signee Conner Estes. “I wouldn’t want to run behind anyone else.”
According to the Clarion-Ledger, the Mississippi high school rushing record is held by Ruleville Central’s Noah Ingram who rushed for 3,411 yards in 1999.
Brown is just 331 yards off the record mark and could set the mark with a deep Hornets playoff run.
According to Max Preps, Brown came into Friday’s game as the second leading rusher in Mississippi, only eight yards behind Pisgah’s Don Ragsdale.
Jessie Bradley and Ryan Evans also got big yardage. Bradley added 62 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries to bring him to 1,040 yards on the season, and Evans ripped off 91 yards on just six carries to take him close to 750 yards on the year.
“They are some special backs,” said Smith of the duo of Brown and Bradley, who have combined for over 4,000 yards this year. “I thought tonight was Brown’s second-best night of the season. He ran really hard.”
Even fullback Louis Morgan got into the act, carrying the ball twice for 33 yards, including a 12 yard scoring run in the second quarter.
While East Central (8-4) was running for big numbers, the Hornets defense stuffed the Forrest County running game behind Avery White, Andrew Seward, Reis Traeger, and Coby Burroughs. White and Seward led the way with six stops each with Traeger and Burroughs adding five stops each as the Aggies (4-7) lost 27 yards on 20 rushing attempts. Traeger also picked off a pass.
“Any time you do that (hold the other team to negative rushing yardage), it means your defensive line and linebackers are playing well,” Smith said.
Although Forrest County had difficulty moving the ball on the ground, the Aggies moved the ball through the air behind Evan Clark, who was 16-of-22 for 218 yards and touchdowns of 48 yards to Kijana Breeland and 10 yards to Bryce Bass. Breeland finished with six catches for 134 yards. Bass added six catches for 43 yards. Nathan Whitley also had a good night receiving for the Aggies with four catches for 58 yards.