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French Camp denies West Oktibbeha playoff spot


By Austin Bishop Special to the Dispatch



FRENCH CAMP -- When his team got the ball trailing by four points with a little more than four minutes left in its game against French Camp on Friday night, West Oktibbeha High School football coach Adam Lowrey had no doubt his team would score. 


But French Camp linebacker Josh Williams had other ideas, as he intercepted a Von Smith pass near midfield to halt West Oktibbeha''s comeback attempt and hand the Panthers a 30-26 win. 


"The only thing I was concerned about was would they have enough time to score back on us," Lowrey said. 


But that never became an issue thanks to Williams'' big play that virtually sealed the win and the No. 3 seed in Class 1A, Region 3. 


"I told Josh they kept throwing the ball in the flats and I said in a minute you are going to be in that spot," French Camp coach Nathan Wright said. "He finally got in that spot and got it. It was nice." 


The loss dropped West Oktibbeha to 6-5 and 5-4 in Region 3, leaving the Timberwolves just short of making the MHSAA Class 1A playoffs. 


"We are just trying to do something nobody has ever done (here) before," Lowrey said. "I''m proud of the boys. We will work on it and get better and get stronger." 


It looked as if the Timberwolves, who had to win the game to make the playoffs, were going to blow out the Panthers early. 


West Oktibbeha took a 14-0 lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by Shun Fair and a 24-yard scoring pass from Von Smith to Aaron Brownlee and appeared to go up by three touchdowns in the second quarter, only to have a touchdown run called back for holding. 


The Timberwolves led 14-0 at halftime, but the second half turned into a high-paced shootout. Every time one team made a big play, the other struck back. 


French Camp cut it to 14-7 with 8 minutes, 9 seconds left in the third quarter when Justin Anderson scored from 4 yards for the first of his four rushing touchdowns on the night. 


West Oktibbeha answered in a hurry, scoring on a 2-yard run by Tiberias Lampkin on its next possession. French Camp blocked the extra point to make it 20-7. 


French Camp scored on a 1-yard run by Anderson late in the third quarter and took the lead on a 13-yard run by Anderson and his two-point conversion to go up 22-20 with 9:55 left in the game. 


Fair scored on a 21-yard run with 8:15 remaining to make it 26-22, only to have the Panthers take the lead for good on a 1-yard run by Anderson and his second two-point conversion of the game. 


French Camp opened up its passing game in the second half, which led to 30 second-half points. 


"They were sending so many guys in the box we just had to open it up some, and when we did they opened up a little bit, which allowed us to run more," Wright said. "On the first two downs they were just sending everybody, so we just changed our passing downs to first and second." 


French Camp freshman quarterback Jesse Hosket was 11 of 18 for 180 yards, while Anderson rushed for 106 yards on 20 carries. 


Smith was 18 of 24 for 217 yards and had just one interception, while Aaron Brownlee had six catches for 80 yards and Fair rushed for 106 yards on 11 carries. Jeremy Brown led the Timberwolves with 12 tackles. 


French Camp (8-2) will travel to defending MHSAA Class 1A State Champion Mount Olive on Friday for the first round of the playoffs, while Noxapater took the fourth spot due to West Oktibbeha''s loss and will visit Natchez Cathedral. 


The other two Region 3-1A teams in the playoffs are league champion Nanih Waiya, which will play host to Bogue Chitto, and No. 2 South Leake, which will play host to Dexter.



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