Mother Nature started the 2018 prep football season off with a lightning delay one play into Thursday night’s Kickoff Classic at Finley Stadium.
The Central Purple Pounders closed it with five lightning strikes – each leading to touchdowns – and head coach Curt Jones began his second stint at the Pounder helm with a season-opening victory over Walker Valley, 40-28.
“It was fun getting a win.
We did some things I liked and some things were a little sloppy, but I gotta tell you I, to continue on that upward trajectory, to continue working our way a little further along the process was nice,” said Jones, who led Central to an eight-win season 15 years ago.
The Pounders faithful have begun to feel a little nostalgic with the fine work Cortney Braswell did in leading them back to respectability, including a run into the second round of the playoffs a year ago before moving back home to take over the Ridgeland program.
But even as nice as last year’s run was, last night had a different feel to it.
Central certainly looked much more versatile last night and they have a clan of Jones to thank for that. All-state tailback Michael McGhee did much of the heavy lifting, but what the Pounders put on film last night should give the opposition a lot of concern if the plan is to focus on McGhee.
Walker Valley definitely had a tough time keeping up with the Joneses.
Junior Hunter Jones rushed for 170 yards on just seven carries, busting long TD runs of 65 and 88 yards and Jaheim Jones completed his only pass to Jay Jones for 40-yard score. In all, five of Central’s six TDs were from 40 yards or longer.
“The big plays just killed us. I mean, with the exception of three plays in the first half, we would have been up 3-0, but it just goes to show you can’t take plays off. It’s the small details, and those details on a few plays killed us tonight,” said Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan.
The Mustangs held the Pounders late in the first quarter on downs and wound up getting on the board first with Charlie Swafford’s 37-yard field goal. The stop and the score seemed to ignite the Mustangs as they keyed on McGhee and handled him in the early going. It took three drives before the Pounders got their initial first down, but it was a killer. Hunter Jones took a reverse on a third-down play, hit the sidelines and was off to the races for the 65-yard burst. And it burst whatever early momentum the Mustangs had.
“I didn’t get to play a lot last year, but I really worked hard to get ready for this one. Mike is our guy, and we know that and everyone else knows that, but whenever we can take a little bit of the load off of him, we need to step up,” Jones said.
Central was content with running the rock and did so to the tune of 40 times for 394 yards on the night, but quarterback Jaheim Jones managed to slip a slant pass to for his only completion in the second quarter and Jay Jones went untouched for the 40-yard score. And just like that it was 14-3. And with all the Joneses lighting it up, the Mustangs were forced to adjust only to have McGhee burst up the middle on Central’s next possession for a 71-yard TD for a 20-3 halftime lead.
“We have a lot of talented guys on this team,” said McGhee, who finished with 131 yards on 17 totes. “We have guys who can take it a long way on any play. I don’t know if that will open things up more for me, or not, but I do know we are multifaceted. Pick your poison.”
Despite a sermon from Ryan at the half about the big plays being the difference in that first half, it was much of the same in the first five minutes of the second half. Hunter Jones took the first play of the second half and won the sprint with a sterling 88-yard run. After a 3-and-out for WV, the Pounders got a 57-yard run from Tracy Odom to the 1 before taking it home on the next play for a 34-3 lead.
“When we were able to run our Wing-T offense we did some nice things, but we got some guys nicked up and had to play some second-teamers and it forced us to change some things. I thought that was when we got sloppy,” Coach Jones said.
The Mustangs rallied after the big deficit and seemed to find themselves, especially in the fourth period when they scored three times to leave the field feeling better about themselves. Heath Tanksley broke free on a 35-yard score and finished with 94 yards rushing. Quarterback Griffin Broome fought off five sacks on the night and wound up completing 13 of 24 passes for 104 yards. He hooked up with Reid Gibson (19 yards) and Eli Hancock (nine yards) for scores.
“I was proud of the way the kids fought, but we have to learn you have to take care of the small details and you can’t take any plays off,” Ryan said of the late showing.
Gibson caught seven passes for 56 yards for WV. Jaheim Jones added another 78 rushing yards for Central. Chance Martin, Hunter Jones, Marquis Ray and Wyatt Garrett each had big nights on defense for Central, while Trevor Vines, Clint Davis and Spencer Wilson were stellar for WV.
Central will travel to Red Bank next week while Walker Valley will go on the road to Bradley Central.
WALKER VALLEY 3 0 7 18 – 28
CENTRAL 7 13 14 6 – 40
WV – Charlie Swafford 37 field goal (3:22, 1st)
C – Hunter Jones 65 run (Jameson Willard kick) (1:54, 1st)
C – Jay Jones 40 pass from Jaheim Jones (Willard kick) (8:12, 2nd)
C – Michael McGhee 71 run (Kick failed) (6:26, 2nd)
C – Hunter Jones 88 run (Willard Kick) (11:37, 3rd)
C – Tracy Odom 1 run (Willard Kick) (6:19, 3rd)
WV – Griffin Broome 15 run (Pass failed) (3:28, 3rd)
WV – Heath Tanksley 35 run (pass failed) (9:28, 4th)
C – Tracy Odom 90 kickoff return (kick failed) (9:09, 4th)
WV – Reid Gibson 19 pass from Griffin Broome (pass failed) (7:17, 4th)
WV – Eli Hancock 9 pass from Griffin Broome (pass failed) (2:01, 4th)
WV STATS CEN
15 1st Downs 11
41-155 Rush 40-394
104 Pass 40
259 Total 434
13-24-1 Passes 1-3-0
7-55 Penalties 9-94
7-24.0 Punts 3-31.6
1-0 Fumbles 4-2
(Contact James Beach via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @beachnut1134)