PONTOTOC- Pontotoc overcame a rough start to advance in the opening round of the 4A playoffs over rival North Pontotoc on Friday. After falling behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter, the Warriors finished the game with 20 unanswered points to win 20-14 over the Vikings.
A Warrior fumble on the game's opening kickoff was jumped on by North's Blake McGloflin. The Vikings moved to the Pontotoc 29 before Pontotoc defensive back Monte Townsend intercepted a pass.
After forcing a punt, North Pontotoc (7-5) jumped on top midway through the first quarter when running back Tyler Hill took a handoff and passed to Tyler Ford for 41-yard score. On the first play of the ensuing possession, North defensive back Jacoree Westmoreland scooped up a Warrior fumble and raced 35 yards to the end zone, putting the Vikings on top 14-0.
A promising Pontotoc drive was derailed after another fumble, this time in the red zone, resulted in a big loss and ultimately a missed lengthy field goal. A third turnover of the first half occurred when North safety Kaden Wilson intercepted a pass early in the second quarter. However, the Vikings were not able to capitalize. North quarterback Reece Kentner was sacked by the Warriors' Jacob Mapp on third down to force a punt.
The Warriors (6-5) moved the ball downfield, keyed by a 38-yard completion from Brice Deaton to Caleb Hobson that gave them a first down at the North 16 yard line. A block in the back call that negated a Jordan Ball TD run followed by a bad snap for a 11-yard loss threatened to derail another drive, but the Warriors came up with a big play when Deaton found D.J. Bean in the back of the end zone for a 42-yard TD on a 3rd-and-36. Jolan Mills converted the point-after kick to cut the deficit in half, 14-7, a score which held until halftime.
After a North punt on the opening drive of the second half, Caleb Hobson hauled a short pass and weaved through defenders for a 54-yard touchdown to tie things up 14-14.
A miscue on a punt snap for North Pontotoc gave the Warriors the ball at the Vikings' 31, but the North defense held, not allowing a first down and forcing a turnover on downs. A Viking fumble was recovered by Ethan Hester to give Pontotoc great field position once again. Pontotoc moved to the 8 yard line, but the North defense continued to play well, as senior linebacker Jon Major Earnest recorded a sack on third down. Senior placekicker Jolan Mills then converted a 36-yard field goal with 11:02 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors their first lead, 17-14. A second 36-yarder with 4:58 to go put the Warriors ahead 20-14.
The game was still in the balance in the final minutes. Reece Kentner hit Tyler Hill for a 41-yard gain on 4th down to move the Vikings to the Pontotoc 32. However, the Warriors’ Peeko Townsend intercepted a pass to kill the drive with 2:56 remaining, and Pontotoc picked up a pair of first downs to run out the clock.
After coming into the game at quarterback, Deaton completed 9 for 15 passes for 202 yards and 2 TDs. Pontotoc's defense kept an opponent’s offense scoreless over the final three quarters for a second-consecutive week.
“We put ourselves in that (hole),” said Pontotoc coach Jeff Carter. “That touchdown right before the half really gave us a little spark, and we came out in the second half and played better. I knew it was going to be tight with North. Coach (Andy) Crotwell and his staff always do a good job.
"We made some plays when we needed to on defense. Brice (Deaton) did a good job. I thought he had the hot hand so we stayed with him."
“Our kids played their tails off; they have all year long," said North Pontotoc coach Andy Crotwell. "We may not be the prettiest bunch, but we are going to get after it. We got the momentum early and just couldn't sustain it. We weren't able to consistently drive the football and were not able to anything going in the run game. Give credit to Pontotoc; they made plays when they needed to.
"I'm so grateful for our seniors and what they've done for us. They've continued to build on what we want here."
Pontotoc has now won six of its last seven after an 0-4 start to ensure at least a .500 season. They travel to take on Louisville (10-2) in the second round this Friday.