September 24, 2017 12:03:17 AM
Columbus High School sophomore Devarkas Ramsey made his team's biggest play Friday night.
Fortunately, many others had made some great plays prior, giving Ramsey his moment to shine.
Junior quarterback Laterius Stowers hit Ramsey in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown in overtime as Columbus beat DeSoto Central 34-28 in a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A, Region 1 contest played before a packed house on Homecoming night at Falcon Field.
"Pretty excited about making that catch," Ramsey said. "I was happy to be there to help my brothers out. This was a great win. It will mean a lot to us going forward. To be able to win the game on Homecoming, well that was exciting."
In the postgame, Columbus senior Jordan Ramsey spoke with enthusiasm about the upcoming Homecoming dance. He also spoke with enthusiasm about a 1-0 record in region play and a modest two-game winning streak overall.
"Being 1-0 in the region is huge," Ramsey said. "It means everything. We didn't want to disappoint this large crowd. It was a good team win because everybody had to pitch in to make it happen."
In the first half, it appeared Columbus (2-3, 1-0) would not need overtime. In the fourth quarter, it appeared Columbus would be fortunate to have overtime.
The Falcons trailed 28-21 when electing to punt with 2 minutes, 39 seconds left in regulation.
"You have to believe in your defense," Columbus coach Randal Montgomery said. "You have to tell them it is on your back."
Junior linebacker Jaylen Hickman liked being in that position.
"We felt like we had this," Hickman said. "Just give us a chance to make a play. That is because we won last week. It changed the confidence level. The mind-set was get the stop and get the ball back."
Columbus did just that. DeSoto Central (3-3, 0-1) gained five yards before punting the ball back.
Stowers then led the team 59 yards on three plays in just 25 seconds. With two timeouts to work with, Stowers found junior Jervious Vance wide open for a 43-yard touchdown catch down the right side of the field.
Chris Taylor kicked the game-tying extra point with 34 seconds left in regulation.
Stowers threw for five touchdowns, with four of them going to Vance. Stowers was 11 of 23 for 215 yards. Vance had those four catches for 139 yards.
"The chemistry is pretty good right now," Vance said. "(Stowers and I) have been running a lot of routes together. You are seeing that begin to pay off. Our quarterback has some confidence and he can really throw the ball. If we can get an opening, we have a chance."
The defense then needed one more stop as DeSoto Central went first in the overtime period. It was the Falcons' first overtime game since 2011.
Montrez Williams, Cody Sanders and Hickman plugged up the middle. The Jaguars were denied on two running plays and two passing plays. A fake field goal attempt on fourth down went awry, meaning any type of points would send the home team to victory.
"That was exciting for sure," Sanders said. "We needed to have that one last stop. We didn't want them to get any points. We felt like the offense would win the game if they got a chance with the ball."
For Columbus to be in that position late could be considered baffling.
After scoring on the game's first four possessions of a 27-7 home win over Vicksburg last Friday, Stowers led back-to-back scoring drives to start this contest.
Columbus had 142 of its 286 total yards in the first quarter and quickly led 14-0. On Vance's second touchdown catch, Stowers strained his arm and did not return for the rest of the half.
Columbus still dominated the first 24 minutes and led 14-0 at halftime.
"We talk all the time about not taking your foot off the gas," Montgomery said. "(Losing Stowers) really changed what we were trying to do."
DeSoto Central took advantage of a punt block and a bad snap on fourth down on another punt attempt to quickly score 21 third-quarter points. Suddenly, the Falcons were in a mess.
Stowers overthrew some open targets in his third quarter return. Eventually, the pain subsided and the passes returned to being on target.
A 55-yard kickoff return by Randle placed the Falcons on the Jaguars' 33. Three players later, Stowers hit Vance again and the teams were tied at 21.
"When I took the field coach said house call," Ramsey said. "That means I need to take it to the end zone. I came close. Fortunately, that return gave us all a big spark."
The next game-tying drive would be far more critical and far more dramatic.
"A young team really grew up on that drive," Montgomery said. "The season didn't depend on it, but it was close. To find a way do that in the final minute of the game is special. You can always go back to that experience and what it will mean to our season."
On second down, Stowers threw a strike. Ramsey made a catch. He was joined quickly by his quarterback, running back Derrick Jordan and others for a massive celebration.
A team winless four weeks into the season was suddenly on a winning streak.
"After we beat Vicksburg, coach told us to come out and practice like we were a 1-0 team," Hickman said. "This week we will practice like we are a 2-0 team."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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