SOSO, Miss. (WDAM) _ For the past several seasons, West Jones and Laurel high schools have had much to say in shaping the pecking order in Region 3-5A football.
Friday night, the Mustangs spoke louder.
West Jones jumped out to a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter and the Golden Tornadoes never could catch up as the Mustangs remained unbeaten with a 24-14 decision.
“It was very big,” said West Jones junior running back Kentrel Pruitt, who bulled his way to 103 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. “This was the most difficult team we’re going to face all (the regular) season.
“I think we did a very good job executing all the plays. We had a few slipups, but we came back hard.”
The Mustangs (8-0, 4-0), Class 5A’s defending South State champions, recovered a Laurel fumble on the second play of the game. Two plays later, junior quarterback Alan Follis went around end on a 39-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 West Jones lead.
After forcing a Laurel three-and-out, the Mustangs marched 59 yards in 10 plays, with Follis ripping off a 12-yard keeper and then slipping through the right side again for eight yards to convert a third-and-2 at the Laurel 21-yard line.
Pruitt got the final three carries, cracking in from the 4-yard line and giving the Mustangs a 14-0 lead with 6:15 left in the first quarter.
“Huge,” West Jones coach Scott Pierson said of the fast start that helped the Mustangs stay atop the region standings. “The fumble early, which we were able to capitalize on a short field, and then coming out and running Alan, which we haven’t done all year … We gave him some run/pass options there, and he was lights out.
“By the time they adjusted, it was a little late.”
After that, the Mustangs offense became major servings of Pruitt between the tackles, banging away at the Laurel front.
“Coach just told me to get downhill instead of bouncing (runs outside) because I wasn’t going to outrun anybody, so it was get vertical, get vertical, get vertical,” Pruitt said. “That was the whole thing.”
The Mustangs made it 17-0 late in the third quarter on a 25-yard field goal by sophomore Benjamin Cooper,
Laurel (6-2, 3-1) answered on its next possession with junior quarterback Xavier Evans finding sophomore Tyrone Jones down the right sideline for a 30-yard touchdown pass to get within 17-7.
But an exchange of punts to open the fourth quarter left Laurel holding the short end of the stick.
Follis pinned the Golden Tornadoes at the 7-yard line, and after forcing Laurel to punt out of the end zone, West Jones took over at the 39-yard line.
Follis then crossed up the defense, finding senior Jalen Keys (two catches, 46 yards) on the first snap, hitting him in stride with a 39-yard touchdown pass for 24-7 lead.
Laurel scored last, as Evans threw his second touchdown pass of the game, a 35-yard hook-up with junior Bryce Page. But by then, only 71 seconds was left to play, and after recovering the onside kick, West Jones knelt twice to run out the clock.
“Sometimes, it just isn’t your night,” Laurel coach Todd Breland said. “We got outplayed, got outcoached. Give West Jones a lot of credit. They were prepared to play and brought it to us.
“I thought they controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides, but, you know, the sun will come up tomorrow and we’ll prepare top play another game.”
Laurel, which slipped out of a first-place tie and into second in the region, will host Forest Hill High School at 7 p.m. Friday. The Patriots (3-6, 2-) dropped a 30-18 region decision to Natchez High School.
West Jones will travel to Natchez High School at 7 p.m. Friday. The Bulldogs (4-4, 2-2) defeated Forest Hill High School 30-18 Friday.