West Jones beats up Poplarville

Published 11:50 pm Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Poplarville Hornets hoped to get a win against the West Jones Mustangs but were lucky to prevent a washout in the 32-6 loss.

Running back Chansler Houston prevented the goose egg with a two-yard scoring run with 21 seconds left in the game.

““They just whipped us,” Hornet head coach Lance Mancuso said in post-game comments. “We had chances in the first half … and we shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times (on chances) to keep ourselves in the game.”

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Mustang head coach Scott Pierson attributed part of the Hornet difficulties to a damp field that prevented the PHS running game from gaining traction.

“He had a lot of speed and wasn’t able to showcase it because of the wet field,” he said. “It was sloppy out there tonight.” A strong thunderstorm moved through the area about two hours before game time.

Pierson said West Jones was able to exploit the wet field conditions and the lack of depth in the Hornet team as the game progressed.

“His quarterback (Matt Williams) can run but he wasn’t able to cut loose and make cuts because the turf was so soft.”

The Hornets had hoped to play this first game in their new on-campus facility but last minute construction forced them to return to the Pearl River College campus one last time.

In pre-game ceremonies Poplarville school superintendent Carl Merritt presented PRCC president William Lewis with a plaque expressing Poplarville’s appreciation for use of the field for many seasons.

Both teams spent the first quarter jockeying for position and getting their gridiron legs under them but in the second quarter the Mustangs started their 5-touchdown scoring run. The Hornets were pinned back close to their goal on a couple of possessions and had managed to prevent the Mustangs from taking advantage of the opportunities.

The first score came at 6:24 in the quarter when quarterback Chase Hedrick (10 for six for 57 yards on the night) completed a pass to Tyler Gardner for 14 yards and the first score. Adam Herrington’s point after was good for the 7-0 opening. Two pass interference calls against the Hornets had allowed the Mustangs to get within the 15 and the eventual score.

Poplarville attempted to even matters with a drive of their own starting from the 50 but had to give the ball back to West Jones on a fumble recovery.

With second and 25 from within their own side of the field the Mustangs completed a pass and ensuing run that got them to the Hornet 37. Thatcher Lee prevented the first TD attempt of the drive with a tackle at the two. A penalty pushed the Mustangs back to the seven.

The drive ended with seven ticks left on the clock as Hedrick found one of the rushing workhorses for the Mustangs, Marcus Pierce, for 22 yards. Herrington’s PAT failed and the halftime score ended at 13-0.

Poplarville’s defense, which gave a good account of themselves in the first half, began to wear down.

“They just wore on us in the second half,” Mancuso said. “We’re not real deep and our kids got tired. We’ll learn from this; we’ll come back next week and hopefully we’ll give a better effort and hopefully we’ll be in shape to play four quarters.”

With 10:05 remaining in the third, the Mustangs added the third score on a 34-yard scamper through the right side of the Hornet line by Dexter Brown. Harrington’s kick set the score at 20-0.

Four minutes later West Jones pulled even further away with an 11-yard sprint by Rodrick McCullum with 6:02 in the third stanza. The final Mustang TD was punched over the right side of the line at the six second mark of the third on a 2-yard plunge by McCullum. That ended West Jones scoring for the game with blocking of the PAT.

On the night West Jones led in overall stats. The Mustangs rushed for 206 yards and 108 yards through the air versus 135 yards rushing and 75 yards passing for the Hornets.

Leading rushers for the Mustangs were Brown with 10 for 85 yards, Pierce and McCullum four for 41 yards each, and QB Headrick seven for 39. Through the air Headrick was six of 10 for 57 yards. Mustang receivers were Gardner, three for 32 yards; Kraig Simpson, one for 14; and Pierce, two for 11.

“I thought we played real well,” Pierson concluded. “Anytime you win at this level you’re going to feel good.”

“That’s a quality team over there and they’re well coached,” he said. “Anytime we can come down here and get a ‘W,’ no matter what the score is, we’re going to feel good about it.”

The Mustangs opponent next week is Magee.

Justin Raine led the Hornet rushing attack with 15 carries for 55 yards, Ira White with seven for 32 yards, Houston 10 for 28 and QB Matt Williams eight carries for 20 yards. In passing, Williams attempted 17 and completed seven for 75 yards.

After the game, Mancuso said the heat earlier in the summer practice sessions might have been a factor, saying that they probably weren‘t able to get the team in as good of condition as they should be.

“But that’s no excuse – you’ve got to play four quarters,” he said. “We’re just working right now to be ready when district play gets here.”

The Hornets travel next Friday to Forrest County.