By Stan Beall
The Star Herald
The Kosciusko Whippets hosted the Leake Central Gators last Friday night and grabbed their first region win of the year 39-28.
The Whippets, 3-6 overall and 1-2 in Region 4-4A play, got off to a rough start early in the first quarter when a Leake Central defender shot the gap on the games first play from scrimmage and stripped the ball from a Whippet ball carrier.
The Gators scored shortly thereafter and quickly took a 7-0 lead with barely a minute gone from the clock.
The Whippets, unfazed by the early misfortune, took possession and were in the end zone just three plays later after Jamari Roby hauled in a 76-yard touchdown pass with 10:00 left in the first quarter from Whippet quarterback Tim Wade.
The Whippet defense held tough on the Gators next possession and were able to put together another nice drive that culminated in an Allen Vasquez 27-yard field goal with 5:51 left to push the Kosy lead to 10-7 after one quarter of play.
Both teams remained scoreless throughout much of the second quarter before the Whippets added another Vasquez field goal from 38 yards out with 5:23 left.
The Gators found pay dirt with just .19 seconds left before the half and took a 14-13 lead into the intermission.
The Gators came out of the half and quickly scored again, taking a 21-13 lead over the Whippets with close to 10:00 remaining in the third quarter.
Again, the Whippets didn’t waiver and put together another nice drive that ended with a 12-yard Jabri Selmon touchdown run, Vasquez kick good, to pull the Whippets within one-point of the Gator lead 21-20.
The Whippet defense held tough throughout the remainder of the third quarter allowing the offense to find the end zone once again after a 19-yard Deavolon Edwards touchdown run with just .19 seconds left in the third quarter.
The conversion attempt was no good and the Whippets took a 26-21 lead into the fourth quarter. With 6:44 remaining in the contest, Brian Carter stepped in front of a Gator pass for an interception at the 15-yard line.
The Gators had been on a long and impressive drive before the turnover.
The Gator defense stiffened after the interception and the Whippets had to punt the ball, putting the game’s outcome squarely on the shoulders of the fast dogs defense.
With just 3:56 remaining in the contest, Whippet defensive end Kendrick Pittman recovered a Gator fumble near midfield and returned it to the Gator 24-yard line.
After a Leake Central penalty, Edwards ran it in from six yards out with 3:49 remaining to increase the Whippet lead to 33-26.
On the ensuing kickoff the Gators indicated that they were not going away when they returned the kick for a touchdown to pull within five points of the Whippets, 33-28.
The Whippets took possession of the football and after a long impressive run from Edwards; Selmon found the end zone from 20 yards out and the Whippets took a 39-28 lead with 3:06 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Gator offense stalled and the Whippets were able to hold on for their first region win of the year.
“I think that you’re starting to see us mature,” said Whippet head coach Tyler Peterson. “We had a bad play the first play of the game, five weeks ago we might have dropped our heads, but the guys were able to respond with a touchdown on the next drive.” Offensively quarterback Tim Wade, who was 11-19 through the air for 166 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jamari Roby, led the Whippets.
Deavolon Edwards led all ball carriers with 123 yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns while Jabri Selmon carried the ball 12 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns as well. Jerrell Jackson, showing a lot of quickness, rushed for 57 yards on just three carries, while Roby had six receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown.
“We are starting to gel as an offensive and defensive unit,” added Peterson. “You’re starting to see guys having a lot of fun out there.”
Defensively junior linebacker Orlando hill led the Whippets with 11.5 tackles and senior linebacker and ‘Top Ten 2 Watch’ honoree Kendric Riley who had 10 tackles.
Safety Darrius Morgan recorded 8.5 tackles while Daquan Tolar, Kendrick Pittman and Brian Carter each tallied 5.5 tackles.
“We’ve been preaching it all year to our guys to have fun,” said Peterson. “You play so much better when you’re having fun and showing enthusiasm. I rewound the tape after (Brian) Carter made the interception and we had five guys jumping up and down, that’s the most I’ve seen by far all year long. The guys are playing with excitement and it’s showing.”
The Whippets will host Caledonia Friday night at 7 p.m. for their last regular season home game of the year.