ECRU- North Pontotoc gritted out a 20-0 shutout victory over rival South Pontotoc on Friday night to improve to 3-1 on the season. It was the Vikings' second straight victory in the rivalry.
The Viking offense got off to a strong start with a pair of opening quarter touchdowns, but then sputtered most of the remainder of the game while the defense dominated.
“The second and third quarters especially were sloppy with a lot of penalties, a lot of miscues, snaps over the head, but the defense bailed us out like they do,” said North Pontotoc head coach Andy Crotwell. “We continue to play really well on defense. I am very pleased with their effort and the way they fly to the football. We are still searching on offense a little bit."
The Vikings marched down the field on their opening drive, with all 68 yards coming on the ground. Quarterback T.J. Polk rushed for 44 yards, including an 8-yard TD at the 7:17 mark.
After a South three-and-out, North capitalized on good field position with another scoring march. Polk connected with tight end Landon Hogue for a 13-yard gain, and Raquan Booth ripped off an 18-yard rush to give the Vikings a 1st and goal at the 9 yard line. On third down Polk broke out of what looked to be a sure sack and found Hogue open for an 11-yard TD. A second extra point by Gavin Dyer made it 14-0 with 1:02 to play in the first quarter.
A bad snap on a punt early in the second quarter gave the Cougars (1-3) a golden opportunity to get back in the game with the ball on the Viking 9 yard line, but the North defense held and a field goal attempt was no good. South started their next possession on the North 41, but they ultimately were forced to punt.
North's defense forced key turnovers on downs in the second half. The first was on South’s first possession of the third quarter, and the last, late in the fourth, helped to put the game away. South was gaining some momentum in the final quarter when Eli Brown was stopped inches short of a first down their own territory, leading to North putting the game away on a 4-yard TD run from Polk with 4:06 to play.
With the win, the Horton Trophy, named in honor of former Pontotoc County School District Superintendent Jerry Horton, will remain in Ecru. Polk rushed for two TDs and threw for another for the Vikings.
“We were flat coming out to start the game," said South Pontotoc coach Rod Cook. "Coming back from a 14-point deficit is hard to do. I thought we came out and played a good second half, but the first half is what kept us out (of it).”
The Viking defense has not allowed a touchdown in back to back weeks. They surrendered less than 100 yards of offense to the Cougars.
"We have a lot of experience on that side of the ball and they understand our expectations as far as swarming to the football," coach Crotwell said. "They play with a lot of physicality."