East Central’s Jacob Vick pulled in Northeast Jones’ Caleb West’s two-point conversion pass attempt to preserve the East Central’s 32-30 win over the Tigers in the first round of the Mississippi Class 4A football playoffs Friday night.
“I knew we had to make a stop,” Vick said of the Tigers’ conversion try with 2:11 left in the game. He said his assigned receiver did not charge off the snap, so he looked at West in time to see the Northeast Jones quarterback lift a pass to the right corner of the endzone. “I decided to take my chance and go for the ball.”
Following the interception which kept East Central (7-4) in front by two, Brad Cumbest recovered the Tigers’ onside kick attempt with just a few ticks above two minutes left in the game. Hornets head coach Seth Smith turned the ball over to AJ Davis to run the clock out with two runs for 11 yards and a game-sealing first down.
Vicks’ interception preserved a great night for Davis as the senior Hornet running back easily cracked the 2,500 yard mark on the season, rushing for 295 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries. Davis now has 2,663 yards, a new single-season Hornets’ mark, breaking Nate Cohen’s record of 2,436 yards set last year.
Davis opened the scoring with an 8 yard-run with 3:17 left in the first quarter. He added a 2-yard scoring run with 5:13 left in the second quarter to ties the game at 14. A 15-yard Davis scoring run following Devin Whitfield’s interception of a West pass gave East Central a 20-14 lead.
After the Tigers (7-4) came back to go up by one, 21-20, and following a short punt by Northeast Jones, which gave the Hornets the ball at the Tigers 32, Davis led the Hornets on their fourth scoring drive of the night, converting on a 2-yard run. Davis would do most of the damage on the Hornets’ fifth scoring drive, but was out for a breather when Jessie Bradley took the ball in from 8 yards out.
“He exemplifies what makes this team special,” Smith said of Davis, who also caught a pass for 19 yards. “He is our heart with his mental and physical toughness.”
Davis, though, said he thought his performance Friday was only “average,” giving credit to his blockers. “The offensive line did the dirty work,” he said.
The Hornets win came despite a strong game from West, who was 13-of-21 for 204 yards. West connected with Billy Magee catching six passes for 81 yards and Will Morgan hauling in five receptions for 80 yards. While West did not pass for a score, his 6 yard run with 2:11 brought the Tigers to within two, 32-30.
The Tigers also got a strong game from K.D. Newell, who ran for 115 yards, including TD runs of 2 and 37 yards, on 24 carries. Toby Jones added 43 yards on six carries, including a 21 yard scoring run that gave the Tigers a brief 14-7 lead in the second quarter.
“East Central played hard tonight,” said Tigers coach Keith Braddock. “But we shot ourselves in the foot.”
Braddock pointed to two second-half East Central scoring drives that started deep on the Tigers side of the field and led to touchdowns: a 20 yard drive to set up the Hornets’ first score of the second half and a short punt that gave the Hornets the ball at the 32 on their fourth scoring drive.
“You can’t give a team like that a short field,” he said. “You have to make them drive the field.”