COVERAGE RECAP: Pontotoc Edges Houston
The Hollow was the perfect setting for me on the first Friday of the 2016 season. At Pontotoc, the band is a show just as the football is, so the atmosphere is always incredible. That is also true for last night.
Jacob Carter connected with Jerrick Ray early in the first quarter to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead. Then the flood gates opened. Not the form of points, but instead water falling from the sky.
Just as the first quarter was about to turn into the second, Hilltopper quarterback Urriah Shepherd evened the score with an impressive scamper into the endzone. At the same time the rain was slowing and the sun was setting over the The Hollow, in a more beautiful way than I had ever seen before.
I knew, as I looked upon the first meaningful game of the season, listened to the crowd and checked scores on Twitter, that as special night was shaping up. I was standing amongst the beauty of The Hollow at sunset, watching two 4A teams with title aspirations and soaking in the return of high school football.
Before I could get too sentimental, though, I was awoken by a ground-shaking sack from Houston’s Johnta Walker. It was his first of 2016, he tallied 19 a season ago. Following that sack, Pontotoc mishandled the snap on the punt the next play and Houston recovered it in the endzone.
Ty Hardin’s defensive unit was impressive on the night. They fought hard and shined for much of the night. However, the Topper offense was unable to get much going after following the defensive score.
Meanwhile, the Warrior offense started to find success as the game went on. It started with the nifty and tough running from Gabe Harmon. That set the tone for Carter to get in rhythm with his pass catchers.
Austin Morphis showed he can be explosive as a pass catcher, but he also made plenty of catches over the middle, using his size and physicality. Jerrick Ray played well and always seemed to be open in the first half, but was shaking off the rust in game one.
Gabe Wilson is the guy who emerged in the second half as the alpha dog of the talented Pontotoc receiving group. He went all Donte Moncrief in the 2012 egg bowl. He just kept running by his defender, making long catch after long catch. Additionally, he took the opening kickoff of the second half to the house.
The Toppers never quit fighting and that shouldn’t come as a surprise if you know their head coach Ty Hardin. It was his first game as head coach last night, at his alma mater. It was special night for him and I love the energy he showed on the sidelines. He is building a program that has pride in themselves and their town.
On the other side, Jeff Carter’s Warrior program has taken shape as contender. The defense has size and experience at each level. And the offense showed last night that it has an edge to it. Carter is healthy and showed that his athleticism can make the offense better.
Junior left tackle, defensive end Cole Smith is legit. Great frame, great motor, flexible(plays stand up end mostly) and stout.
Junior athlete Austin Morphis has an SEC body. He has SEC athleticism. Last night it was clear that he has begun to put it all together. He made plays all over the field. He is easily one of the best 2018 prospects in Mississippi and will be recognized as such by the end of this season. Played corner in some situations as well.
Senior quarterback Jacob Carter is the perfect guy to be at the center of this offense. He is poised, but at the same time fiercely competitive, and that balance is what helps him lead his teammates.
Caleb Triplett was out, but the Pontotoc defense was impressive last night. Safety Brandon Hale, linebackers Tyler Hendrix and McKinley Windham, Tadarious McIntosh and many others on the side looked locked in.
Seniors Taylor Baskin, Tanner Bullock, Omario Johnson and Johnta Walker are leaders for the defense. They are all very talented. It is fun to watch a unit that includes each of those talented playes.
Baskin is also a versatile player on offense. He can play running back, quarterback or wherever he’s needed.
Junior Urriah Shepherd was impressive at quarterback at times on Friday. He will get better and more comfortable in the passing game. Mostly, I loved his intensity on the sidelines because he didn’t want to lose.
I also love the explosive players the Toppers have, including: sophomore Jalen May, senior Jalon gates and junior Zykiel Virges. They are each very fast.