November 8, 2009 12:31:00 AM
LOUISVILLE -- There was some question going into the Louisville High School football team''s first-round Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North Half State playoff matchup as to whether sophomore wide receiver C.J. Bates would play.
The Warriors of Pontotoc High School left the turf of Louisville''s R.E. Hinze Stadium on Friday night wishing he had not.
Bates caught seven passes, including one for a touchdown that led to LHS tying the game late, and intercepted a pass on the last play of the game to spark the Wildcats to a 28-21 double-overtime win.
"He tore a ligament in a finger on his throwing hand and we didn''t even know if he was going to play," Louisville coach Brad Peterson said. "He really stepped up for us."
The sophomore, who also plays defensive back and has seen time at quarterback this season, saved his biggest play of the night for last as he scooped up a deflected pass from quarterback Canden Dallas just before it hit the turf in the second overtime to preserve the win for the Wildcats (8-4).
"(LHS linebacker) Kevin Washington tipped the ball and I just went for it," Bates said. "I knew I had it clean."
When Bates held the ball in the air, the Pontotoc players fell to the turf dejected.
"That''s a terrible way to end the game (for Pontotoc), but what a heck of a job by our guys," Peterson said. "They fought their hearts out and played really, really well."
The win pushes Louisville into a second-round game at Lafayette County (11-1) on Friday night.
Louisville, the defending MHSAA Class 3A state champions, opened the game like it was going to dominate. The Wildcats moved the ball 76 yards on 12 plays on their first possession to take a 6-0 lead on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Chris Wraggs with 4 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first quarter.
"We knew we were going to have to be able to run the ball to be able to win it," Peterson said. "That''s not in my nature, but that''s what we were determined to do."
The veteran Louisville High coach said he told sophomore running back Dava''is Schaffer he was going to get his fair share of opportunities before the game began.
"He has been close to breaking out this year," Peterson said of Schaffer. "I told him he was going to carry it about 15 or 20 times, and he really stepped up."
Schaffer, who led all rushers with 108 yards on 17 carries, toted the ball on the first four plays of Louisville''s first touchdown drive for 43 yards.
The Wildcats dominated the first quarter, but the tide began to turn midway of the second quarter when Pontotoc marched 91 yards on 10 plays to score on a bizarre play when quarterback Canden Dallas fell on a teammate''s fumble in the Louisville end zone. The conversion by Michael Bounds put the Warriors up 7-6.
Pontotoc took a 14-6 halftime lead when Dallas ran for a 20-yard touchdown with three seconds left in the second quarter after he was flushed out of the pocket.
The Louisville offense was almost non-existent after the first quarter until the last two drives of regulation.
The Wildcats tied the game at 14 after Bates caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Wraggs, who then passed to Zan Carter for the two-point conversion.
Pontotoc scored first in overtime when Randall Crayton scored on a 6-yard run, but the Wildcats tied the game at 21 on an 8-yard pass from Wraggs to Markese Triplett.
Louisville had the ball first in the second overtime and scored on the first play when Schaffer caught a screen pass from Wraggs and went 10 yards for the touchdown.
Two plays later, Bates made the interception that gave the Wildcats the win.