WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WDAM) - West Jones High School football coach Scott Pierson did not care for what he was seeing at War Eagle Stadium Friday night.
Time and again, Pierson;s Mustangs would move down the football field into scoring range, only to come away empty-handed and allow Wayne County High School to stay within striking distance.
“We had a lot of opportunities to make it easier in the second half, but we didn’t,” Pierson said “And the longer you let good teams in rivalry games hang around, it can come back and bite you.”
But thanks to a stifling defensive effort that smothered the Wayne County offense, including a goal-line stand late in the third quarter, the Mustangs held off the Wayne County, 18-2, to log their third consecutive victory against the War Eagles.
Wayne County (0-2) would up with just 105 yards total offense, 58 yards coming on a third-quarter run by junior Kelnevious Walley. The War Eagles committed five turnovers, converted j1-of-14 third-down opportunities and finished with five first downs.
“We’ve got a lot to fix on offense, and it starts with me,” Wayne County coach Kevin Gandy said. “I’m not going to point the finger at them. It starts with the head, and I’m the head. I’ve got to get some stuff fixed.”
West Jones (2-0) had its own offensive issues.
The Mustangs rushed for just 58 yards, putting the brunt of the offense on the arm of quarterback Alan Follis, and the senior ended with a mixed bag of a night.
Under extreme duress from the Wayne County pass rush on at least a dozen dropbacks, Follis was forced to throw on the run. At other times, he tried to force the issue, winding up with three interceptions, including two that were picked off in the end zone and a third inside the Wayne County 10-yard line.
But when West Jones moved the football, it was because of Follis. He wound up throwing for 308 yards, including a game-clinching, 80-yard touchdown pass to senior Cedric Bender late in the fourth quarter.
“He’s trying to make the big play every play,” Pierson said. “He feels the pressure because we can’t run the ball, so instead of just doing what we’re asking you to do, and a little more, we start pressing, and when we start pressing, we don’t make good throws.”
In a game where each time turned the ball over five times, the first points didn’t appear on the scoreboard until less than two minutes remained in the first half.
Starting at its own 31-yard line, the Mustangs went 69 yards in seven plays. Follis had completions of 27 yards and 33 yards to help set up a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line, Three plays later, senior Kentrell Pruitt cracked in from the 1-yard line and West Jones led 7-0 with 1 minutes, 20 seconds, left in the second quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Wayne County fumbled, with the Mustangs recovering at the War Eagle 42. West Jones drove to a first-and-goal at the 8-yard line before settling for a 24-yard Joseph Hernandez field goal and a 10-0 halftime lead.
West Jones tacked on a safety late in the third quarter for a 12-0 lead after Wayne County had to recover a fumble in its own end zone.
But Wayne County struck back, with Walley’s long run setting the War Eagles up at the West Jones 7-yard line. But after a 5-yard gain on first down, three runs netted just a yard.
The War Eagles got a safety from the field position, when an early snap rolled through the end zone for a safety. but a series later, Folllis found Bender behind the secondary on a third-and-10 for the 80-yard clincher.
“We knew we were playing a good team,” Bender said. "We just had to execute, and that’s what we did.
Pruitt finished with 36 yards rushing and a touchdown. Tajrick Randolph had five catches for 83 yards for West Jones and Matthew Nixon added five catches for 69 yards.
The Mustangs return home to take on Petal High School at 7 p.m. Friday. The Panthers (2-0) defeated Laurel High School 38-12 Friday.
The War Eagles will travel to Laurel High School at 7 p.m. Friday, The Golden Tornadoes (0-2) fell 38-12 at Petal High School Friday.