November 6, 2012 10:22:28 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
There's nothing like getting scoring on offense and defense to provide a spark.
Eric Harris and Jevontrae Williams were only too happy to deliver that lift Friday for the West Lowndes High School football team.
Harris had 16 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown, while Williams returned a fumble and an interception for touchdowns to lead West Lowndes to a 36-22 victory against Sebastopol in the regular-season finale.
The victory, coupled with the fact that the West Oktibbeha County High football team, which finished third in Class 1A, Region 3, was banned from the postseason after the school lost its accreditation, helped West Lowndes secure a playoff spot. West Lowndes (5-6) will take on Bogue Chitto, the state's top-ranked team, at 7 p.m. Friday in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A playoffs.
For their accomplishments, Harris and Williams are The Dispatch's co-Prep Players of the Week.
"We worked hard," Harris said. "I just wanted to leave the seniors with something to remember. This year, we think we can end our season with a winning record."
Harris, a 5-foot-6, 145-pound sophomore, plays running back, slot, and safety for the Panthers. He also plays basketball and baseball and competes on the school's track and field and powerlifting teams. His 2012-13 school year is off to a fast start on the football field. He leads the Panthers with 457 rushing yards (an average of 6.44 yards) and seven touchdowns. He also leads the team with 16 catches for 331 yards (20.7 average).
On defense, Harris has 25 solo and 47 total tackles. He has two interceptions and two pass deflections.
"I just wanted to make plays for my team and run the ball hard and make all of the tackles, and shut down all of the players who come to my side," said Harris, who starts at running back and safety. Last season, he started at cornerback, and was one of the leaders in the state in tackles.
Harris credits King for working with him on his footwork, his speed, and his hands. He feels his work in the weight room has helped him improve in the running game. He hopes to build even more speed and strength in the coming years to play an even bigger role.
Williams has played an equally integral role. He is second on the team in rushing with 422 yards (6.7). He also has 12 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he has 17 solo and 34 total tackles, one sack, and two interceptions.
Williams, a 5-9, 185-pound sophomore, played running back and linebacker last season. But his effort Friday night was the biggest moment of his high school career.
"It felt good to help our team get the win to get our team to the playoffs," Williams said.
Williams admitted he didn't follow the instructions of coaches and fall on the fumble. On the interception, he said he was in the right place after Levonte Campbell blocked the football and it came directly to him. It was the first time he had scored two -- let alone one -- touchdowns on defense
"It was a good performance," Williams said. "I just had to show out for the team because we needed the win. It means a lot. We had worked hard all spring and all summer to try to make it somewhere."
Williams felt the Panthers' performance Friday night was the team's best game of the season. He credited the defense for shutting down Sebastopol's running game, and hopes that unit can deliver another effort like that Friday to extend its season.
West Lowndes coach Anthony King credits the sophomores for providing a spark all season. He said their play down the stretch has helped the offense come to live and complement a defense that has been strong all season. He said the combination of Harris, Williams, and junior Dearius Douglas gives he team plenty of depth at running back.
"Jevontrae is a real good athlete," King said. "He covers well, is a good tackler, and has good speed.
"Eric plays with a lot of heart. He has a lot of passion for the game. We have to try to get him to tone it down a bit, but he gives everything he has every game."
King hopes Harris and Williams can be part of a nucleus to a young team that has a lot of potential. He said the players have shown signs they are willing to work hard in the weight room, and that that work has paid dividends this season. Now the plan is to use the momentum the team gains from this season to build for the future.
"Most of the skill guys we have are sophomores and juniors, so if they continue to hit the weights I think we can develop a nice program at West Lowndes," King said.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.