Bearcats knock off Wildcats 31-20, head to second roundBy ALLEN ARDREY AND BILLY FREEMAN,
The 2017 MHSAA (Mississippi High School Athletic Association) Football Championships are underway as last week Forest’s Bearcats faced off against the Wilkinson County Wildcats in the first round of the 3A division playoffs.
The Bearcats opened the game with a bang — they ended the first half with a big lead, but let the Wildcats slip a few by in the second half. Forest was able to close the game with an interception touchdown run for a 31-20 win against Wilkinson County.
For the entire first quarter, both teams traded possession of the ball to one another. Forest managed to sack Wilkinson County’s quarterback and then block their punt return. At the end of the first quarter, the score was Forest 0, and Wilkinson County 0, but the Bearcats would start the second quarter in the red zone.
Proving their team versatility in the second quarter, the Bearcats scored with a touchdown pass, an interception returned for a touchdown, and a rushing touchdown — that is three touchdowns three different ways. Coach Jonathon Worrell said, “That’s the beauty of our offense now — we can take whatever the defense gives us. Wilkinson loaded the box defensively and made things difficult for our run game, so our quarterbacks and receivers did a great job of making them pay through the air.”
The Bearcats scored first blood with a 35-yard field goal, but they were only beginning. Forest forced a fumble, attempted and missed a field goal, forced another fumble, and capitalized with a 30-yard touchdown pass and good point after touchdown. Shortly following that touchdown, the Bearcats intercepted an attempted pass to return a 20-yard touchdown with a good point after.
Two sacks and a touchdown later by the Bearcats, the score at the end of the half was Forest 24, Wilkinson County 0. Coach Worrell said, “We built an early lead with great defensive and special teams play. Should have made a few more plays offensively in the first half to really blow it open.” The first half was admittedly one-sided, but the tides turned in the second half.
To begin the third quarter, Wilkinson scored a 40-yard touchdown pass and successfully completed a two-point conversion to bring the score to Forest 24, Wilkinson County 8. The Wildcats scrambled to recover a fumble by the Bearcats, which they capitalized on with a 3-yard rushing touchdown, yet they failed to convert for two points. The third quarter ended with a score of Forest 24, Wilkinson County 14.
Coach Worrell said, “In the second half, we allowed them to get back into it by playing too conservatively on offense and giving up too many big plays defensively.”
The fourth quarter saw the Wildcats score a 35-yard touchdown pass, which brought the score to Forest 24, Wilkinson County 20. The Wildcats failed to convert for two points, but the Bearcats intercepted an attempted pass later on that would be returned for a touchdown. The final score of the game was Forest 31, Wilkinson County 20.
Defensively, Coach Worrell commented that, “Our defense played remarkably well in the first half. They dominated in the run game and against passes with Josh Nicks creating a fumble that Jalyn Rowell recovered to set up a touchdown pass and Ranauldrick Murrell’s interception return for a touchdown. In the second half, we gave up entirely too many big plays and missed too many tackles, but ended up sealing the game with Diwun Black’s interception at the end.”
Offensively, the Bearcats were nearly even with 137 rushing yards and 138 passing/receiving yards for a total of 275 yards of offense.
The Forest Bearcats clash with the Tylertown Chiefs on Friday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m.. Coach Worrell said that the Bearcats “will be on the lookout for Tylertown’s athleticism at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. No lead will be safe because they can score at any time.” Good luck to the Bearcats in round two of the 3A division playoffs.