September 12, 2009 11:45:00 PM
If the Philadelphia High School football team keeps this up, it might have to change its mascot.
The Tornadoes came to Lowndes County for a battle of undefeated teams, but it felt more like a Category-5 hurricane hit the area after they took a 48-0 halftime lead en route to a 48-16 victory against West Lowndes.
It took Philadelphia (4-0) 18 seconds to find the end zone, as junior Tyriq Patrick returned the opening kickoff 85 yards to give the Tornadoes a 7-0 lead.
"We had a great, hard week of practice, and it translated into a great game tonight," Philadelphia coach Teddy Dyess said. "We had a lot of fast workouts but intense, and that was how we played early in the game. Whenever you play fast in practice you can bring that kind of speed into a game."
Philadelphia''s performance wasn''t just fast, it was nearly perfect. It scored on every offensive possession in the first half, scored two touchdowns on special teams, and limited the West Lowndes to 79 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers.
"The opening kickoff return was an emotional letdown for us," West Lowndes coach Bobby Berry said. "As a coach you could kind of tell. This week we got way too high on ourselves. I hope we can use this as an awakening experience for our players."
The miscues continued for the Panthers (3-1) throughout the first half, as dropped passes, turnovers, and special teams'' miscues littered the opening 24 minutes.
West Lowndes lost two fumbles (one returned for a touchdown), threw two interceptions and had a punt blocked in the end zone.
Senior tailback Brandon Willis, in the absence of leading rusher Georgio Grace, led Philadelphia offense with 126 yards rushing on 15 carries in the first half.
Grace, who leads the Tornadoes with 554 rushing yards, was out due to a knee injury but is expected to be back for next week''s game against Kosciusko.
"Georgio has had a great season and probably could have gone tonight, but we didn''t want to push him," Dyess said. "He''s good to go against Kosciusko, though.
"Brandon got his chance to shine tonight and he did that. We had some great line play and our runners found some space."
Senior defensive end Julian Riddle led the defense with a fumble recovery, a blocked punt, and a touchdown in a three-minute span to help Philadelphia build a 48-0 lead.
He also had two sacks.
"We knew they had some large, strong kids," Berry said. "But you can''t take anything away from Philadelphia, we just got our butts whipped. I am expecting them to be in Jackson at the end of the year. Against a good team you can''t play the way we did tonight."
Berry acknowledged his team''s effort in the second half.
Facing a 48-0 hole, his team outscored Philadelphia 16-0 in the half and limited it to two first downs.
"At halftime, the team was down, so it was tough," Berry said. "I didn''t get on them too much because they all knew what happened. I was proud to see them play well late. We executed the offense better in the second half."
Antonio Wilson had 171 yards (91 rushing, 80 receiving) and two touchdowns, one receiving and rushing, to lead West Lowndes, which will try to bounce back Friday when is plays host Wheeler for homecoming in its last non-divisional matchup.