August 17, 2013 11:13:42 PM
By Harrison Putt
Special to the Dispatch
STARKVILLE -- West Lowndes High School is on a mission. The Panthers want to build where last season left off.
After qualifying for the postseason in the final week of the regular season last year, the Panthers began their newest journey with 24-18 victory over Caledonia High School in the opening game of the New Hope High Jamboree played at Davis Wade Stadium.
With football season unofficially underway with the National Football League starting its preseason play, the high school stars were eager to follow that lead. Public and private schools statewide began play with numerous jamborees as young stars tried to nail down a roster spot before the beginning of regular season play next weekend.
New Caledonia coach Andy Crotwell feels like he has inherited several talented players. However, the Confederates return only offensive lineman starter from last season's team, which lost its final seven games.
One thing we learned with the Confederates is the fact that they will rely heavily on that fierce running game despite not having much experience up front.
"Well, it definitely is a transition especially when you see a complex defense like West Lowndes, it gives the young guys a little bit of trouble early on," Crotwell said. "The good thing is, after you see it a time or two, it gives the guys an opportunity to settle down and recognize it. But you know, the first time these young guys see a different defense, it throws them for a loop."
As the offensive line meshes together, the running game should be able to take flight.
"Both of our (running backs, Quavis Betts and Brandon Henry) are young and there are a lot of things to correct, but this jamboree gives us an opportunity to get better and that's truly a great thing," Crotwell said.
Caledonia has two capable backs in Betts and Henry and they should be just fine come conference play. On this day, they were battling against a physical defensive effort from West Lowndes.
West Lowndes has bulk in that stack defense including linebacker Phytell Williams. Willams is without a doubt one of the player's of the game as he camped out in Caledonia's backfield and also converted a two point conversion for WLHS.
"I just listened the coach, he told me where to go most of the time," Williams said. "Sometimes I just read the offense as well. I had to believe in my team, we one this game as a team today."
Another player that stood out for West Lowndes was RB/CB Eric Harris. Harris was an absolute force out there as he had a 37-yard touchdown reception, a 68-yard touchdown reception and also an unbelievable 57 yard run where he juked about 4 defenders and cut his way back up field.
"I was just determined out there," Harris said. "I've gotta give it to my oline. I have to thank them for the blocking out there."
For the Confederates, Betts had 36 yards on eight carries, including a 36-yard touchdown. When he hits that hole the rest is history. Henry had 59 yards on seven carries as he was more determined on to run between the tackles rather than outside. Outside of a few plays here and there, Caledonia couldn't really get a ton going on offense. Most of this struggle was do to the combination of the Confederate's fresh faces on offense and West Lowndes complex stack defense. Coach Anthony King's defensive unit turned up the pressure and the Panthers responded more often than not.