September 29, 2013 1:10:57 AM
On paper, the matchup of two Class 1A, Region 3 teams with 1-3 records looked to contain the ingredients for a competitive matchup.
Sometimes the records are deceiving.
West Lowndes used a big game from running back Eric Harris and quarterback Justin Stephenson and scored early and often en route to a 41-2 victory against Ethel.
"The guys came out and really played hard," West Lowndes coach Anthony King said. "We played hard last week as well, but we had nine turnovers and the bad weather hurt our speed. We have a really young team and several injuries have us starting three freshmen on the offensive line. It just felt really good to come out here and get a win."
Harris had 10 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a 73-yard pass for a score. Stephenson was 6 of 9 for 210 yards and three touchdowns. The victory helped West Lowndes improve to 2-3 and 1-2 in the region.
Dearius Douglas had three carries for 27 yards and a touchdown. Jevontrae Williams had eight carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, as West Lowndes pounded out 248 yards on 27 carries (an average of 9.19 yards per carry).
In all, Harris (189 all-purpose yards) led the Panthers on an evening they amassed 671 total yards.
After winning the toss and deferring to the second half, the Panthers forced a three-and-out and went to work. With 8 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first quarter, Harris gashed the defense off tackle for a 56-yard touchdown run to take a 6-0 lead, kick failed. The defense stood tall once again, forcing the Tigers into another three-and-out. On the ensuing punt, Douglas shook the first Tiger defender and raced 54 yards for another score. Stephenson found Daniel Davis for the two-point conversion to give West Lowndes a 14-0 lead with 7:01 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Panthers found pay dirt again in the opening stanza with 25 seconds remaining, when Douglas capped a long drive with a 7-yard run to make it 20-0 at the start of the second quarter.
After another defensive stop, the Panthers scored again three minutes into the second quarter, when Stephenson hit Harris along the sideline with a 73-yard touchdown strike. The Panthers made it 28-0 lead after Stephenson found Anthony Liddell for the two-point conversion.
Finding no offensive rhythm, the Tigers would once again punt the football, pinning the Panthers deep in their own territory near the 30-yard line. Williams broke loose into the secondary and raced 45 yards before being brought down at the Ethel 25. Williams capped the drive a few plays later on a fourth-and-goal plunge from the half-yard line. The pass failed to make it 34-0 at halftime.
West Lowndes quickly went to work in the second half. With 7:55 left in the third quarter, Stephenson found Liddell in the corner of the end zone from 40 yards to take a 41-0 lead. The Panthers cruised the rest of the way and allowed only a safety when linebacker Trey Tolleson tackled Rontavis Clark in the end zone to account for the final margin.
Having senior linebacker Phytrell Williams back in action after missing several games with an injury made a difference in his team's confidence Friday night, according to King.
"I think the team feeds off him offensively and defensively," King said. "He just really lifts up the defense when he's out there."
Phytrell Williams had five solo tackles and led the team with 11 total stops. Kendrick Sanders had four solo tackles (eight overall), while Tyson Rogers had three solo tackles (eight). Krayveon Harris had four solo tackles and seven total tackles. Rogers and Wendell Reives had sacks.
West Lowndes will play host to West Oktibbeha on Friday in another Class 1A, Region 3 game.
1. MSU will try to re-focus for bowl game COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Woodard Jr. maturing into leader for Columbus HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. MSU's Weatherspoon earns SEC honor COLLEGE SPORTS
4. MSU women continue to have success sharing COLLEGE SPORTS
5. History within Tigers' grasp LOCAL COLUMNS