August 29, 2009 11:55:00 PM
The final statistics Friday night indicated the West Lowndes High School football team''s game against East Oktibbeha was a close one.
But the score, 26-0 in favor of the Panthers, told a different story.
Subplot A was the four interceptions the Panthers made against quarterback Chris Hunter.
Subplot B was the Titans'' ability to move the football between the 20s, racking up 173 total rushing yards to West Lowndes'' 159, before seeing their drives stall or end in turnovers.
Subplot C was West Lowndes sophomore tailback Antonio Wilson snapping for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
The years-old rivalry between West Lowndes and the former B.L. Moor High School wasn''t pretty or poetic -- 24 flags were thrown, 14 on the home Panthers -- but it began with a proper back-and-forth struggle.
West Lowndes (2-0) lost a fumbled handoff on its first drive, but it got the ball back four plays later when Brandon Clark intercepted Marion Fair''s tailback pass.
Five plays and 22 yards later, West Lowndes senior linebacker and defensive end Brandon Hill made the first of his two interceptions against Hunter.
After a scoreless first quarter, the teams traded long drives in the second quarter before Wilson weaved his way down the middle of the defense behind a good push from his offensive line for a 14-yard touchdown with 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the half.
The two-point attempt failed and gave West Lowndes a 6-0 lead.
Wilson (19 carries, 166 yards, two touchdowns) struck again on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. From the Panthers'' 39, he ran a sweep to the right and got lost in the crowd. He emerged on the other side and streaked 61 yards for his second touchdown.
The two-point conversion failed and West Lowndes was up 12-0.
The prevalent attitude on the East Oktibbeha sideline was: "One big play and we''re back in this." But after Hill returned his second interception 65 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter, all that talk disappeared.
Once again, the two-point conversion was no good.
East Oktibbeha continued to gain yards in its misdirection-based Wing T formation late in the third quarter, but fatigue showed in the fourth quarter and their numbers slipped.
West Lowndes didn''t fare much better (3 yards rushing on nine attempts) in the fourth quarter. But a 47-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Courtney Lucious (6-for-17, 97 yards) to senior wide receiver Andre Farmer with four minutes remaining put the finishing touches on the victory.
Farmer had to break just one tackle on his way through the exhausted secondary.
Kevin Hargrove punched the ball in to give West Lowndes a 26-0 advantage.
Another interception, this one by Farmer, told the story of the night for the Titans.
East Oktibbeha leaned heavily on its sophomore quarterback, calling Hunter''s number 12 times on the ground and 15 times through the air. He finished with 69 yards rushing and 69 yards passing.
Fair rushed for 58 yards on nine attempts
The rival schools were neck-and-neck for total offense with West Lowndes gaining 256 yards to East Oktibbeha ''s 247.
West Lowndes coach Bobby Berry said smooth wins aren''t the goal.
"We might not have won it in the best of fashions, but in this type of game there are no set patterns because this is a rivalry," Berry said. "I enjoy a victory any time I can get one."
Berry credited Hill but acknowledged his defense''s struggle to contain East Oktibbeha (1-1).
"All of them did a tremendous job," Berry said. "They (gave) effort in spots. They didn''t do it wholeheartedly (for) 48 minutes. But we did enough."
East Oktibbeha coach Anthony King gave a similar assessment of his offense, praising the effort but expressing a need for consistency.
"We moved the ball well," King said. "We just didn''t execute down the stretch on the long drives. We had a mental mistake here or there and it really cost the game."
He said his team''s four interceptions won''t stop the Titans from tossing it up in the next game.
"I''m not going to get away from the passing game," King said. "We had a couple guys over here just pick the wrong read. The quarterback''s just got to pick up his read a lot quicker."
West Lowndes will be at Caledonia on Friday, while East Oktibbeha will travel to South Leake.
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