November 4, 2012 12:59:15 AM
When the West Lowndes High School football team learned a playoff spot was on the line in its regular-season finale, there was a change in the team's mood.
After a season in which West Lowndes was plagued by uneven play and relied on its defense to keep it in games and to pull out victories, the Panthers saved their best performance for their most important game.
Eric Harris ran for 89 yards on 16 carries, and sophomore Jevontrae Williams scored a pair of defensive touchdowns Friday in a 36-20 victory against Sebastopol on Senior Night.
The victory means West Lowndes (5-6) will face Bogue Chitto in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday.
Due to the Oktibbeha County School District losing its accreditation, the West Oktibbeha Timberwolves, who finished third in Class 1, Region 3 were banned from postseason play. As a result, West Lowndes, which finished fifth moved up a spot and will take on top-seeded Bogue Chitto, the top-ranked team in the state in Class 1A.
"We saw a change in the guys this week," West Lowndes coach Anthony King said. "We knew if we worked hard ... they worked hard all spring and summer, so it's fitting. It's a gift from God these guys have a chance to go to the playoffs."
Williams was a hammer on both sides. He returned a fumble 66 yards for a touchdown and intercepted a pass for 88 yards. He added eight tackles and had 38 yards and a touchdown on offense.
"Trae, he's running well, playing excellent defense," King said. "He's a sophomore, so we saw him get better as the season went on. He's going both ways, and it seemed like he was in the right place all night. He was all over the place."
Harris added a touchdown for the Panthers.
n Noxubee County 42, Shannon 6: At Macon, Darrell Robinson scored four touchdowns as the top-seeded Tigers (12-0) opened their run at a state title with a victory in the first round of the MHSAA Class 4A North State playoffs.
"We came out kind of sluggish, but we came on strong at the end," Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter said. "I don't know why we came out kind of sluggish, but we picked it up. Shannon is a young football team. They're going to be hard to beat next year."
Noxubee County will play host to Lafayette, which beat Greenwood 24-7, at 7 p.m. Friday. In 2010, Noxubee Count defeated Shannon in the second round and lost to Lafayette 20-0 in Macon.
Shorter didn't have exact statistical totals, but he said Robinson rushed for more than 200 yards. If that was the case, the senior running back eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark, which he set as a goal at the beginning of the season.
"That is what he has been doing all season," Shorter said. "The offensive line did a great job."
The performance leaves two more goals for Robinson and the Tigers to achieve. The Tigers already won the Region 4 title, but they are shooting for a North State crown and a second state championship in program history.
Shorter knows the next steps on that journey will be a challenge, which is why he said the Tigers have to maintain their focus.
"We know it is going to tough against Lafayette," Shorter said. "That team can play. I think our kids are going to be ready."
Noxubee County expects to have senior defensive lineman Dylan Bradley back for that game. He sat out the Shannon game after suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament against Louisville in the next-to-last regular-season game.
Still, Noxubee County's defense rose to the challenge and overcame one big play against it.
"The defense played really well," Shorter said. "They gave up a big play early in the game, but they settled down and played great defense."
Jarvis Taylor rushed for another touchdown, and Darrell Brandon recovered a fumbled and returned it for the other score.
n North Delta Academy 42, Oak Hill Academy 14: At Batesville, the Raiders' resurgent season ended with a loss at North Delta on Friday in a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA playoff game that was ended early by a serious injury to Oak Hill Academy's Jeb Stevens.
Stevens was injured in the fourth quarter when he fell awkwardly on his neck, coach Daniel Merchant said. Stevens was airlifted to a hospital in Memphis, Tenn., with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. The game was ended at that point.
Merchant was headed to see his player when reached Friday night and was unsure of his condition. However, he said Stevens was moving his feet and hands before boarding a helicopter. Stevens was awaiting more tests shortly after midnight.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Jeb," he said. "We're praying for the best.
When contacted Saturday, Merchant said Stevens suffered a sprained neck and a concussion. He said Stevens will have to wear a neck brace for two weeks.
The Raiders (6-6) trailed 42-0 at halftime but added a pair of touchdowns in the second half.
Oak Hill had 142 yards on 35 carries. Stevens had 25 yards on six carries, while Drew Riley had 53 yards on eight carries. Riley scored Oak Hill's only two touchdowns of the game.
Oak Hill Academy was making its first appearance in the playoffs since 2009. It recorded its first winning regular season since 2006 in Merchant's first season.
n Pelahatchie 54, West Oktibbeha 26: At Pelahatchie, the Timberwolves ended their season with a loss that would have dropped them to third seed and a playoff berth in Class 1A, Region 3.
Unfortunately, earlier in the week the Timberwolves learned they won't be able to compete in the MHSAA playoffs due to the fact that the school has lost its accreditation. As a result, West Oktibbeha is banned from postseason play even though it set a single-season record for most victories.
Coach Adam Lowrey said senior running back Tiberias Lampkin had 19 carries for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Von Smith had a touchdown pass to Kelsey Jefferson, and Jonathan Love added a touchdown run.
n Weir 21, East Oktibbeha 20: At Crawford, It may have been the last game for the Lions, whose school is being consolidated, but the Titans hoped to close a difficult season with a statement victory.
However, two failed two-point conversions cost the Titans that change Friday night.
The Titans (2-9) trailed the entire game but had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter after a touchdown pass from Justin Williams to Curtis Randle, but a failed conversion kept the Titans from taking the lead.
"It was the difference in the game," East Oktibbeha County coach Randy Brooks said. "It's been an issue all year."
Williams threw two touchdowns and added one on the ground.
The loss was East Oktibbeha's most competitive game of the season.
Brooks was happy to end the season on a high note. He said the team loses just five seniors and has its entire offensive line returning in 2013.
"One of our goals this year was to get our young players experience, and we did that," he said. "That was my message to them in the locker room. We get a couple of weeks off, then we have to go to work."
Staff reports were included in this report.
1. Heard brothers playing big roles for ICC COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Battle of reigning champs set when West Point faces Lafayette HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. Sophomores provide spark for New Hope vs. Aberdeen HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. No. 1 EMCC pulls away to beat ICC COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Simpler approach working well for Starkville HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS