WATER VALLEY – It was a case of what could have been for the Water Valley Blue Devils in their 24-16 loss to Senatobia. Coach Brad Embry’s bunch took control of Friday’s nights encounter in the first half, before costly turnovers and what could be an even more costly injury to D.C. Logan derailed Water Valley’s quest for their first home win of the season.
After Water Valley stopped the Warriors on their first two possessions, the Blue Devils committed their first of many self inflicted errors of the night. Sophomore Eric Buckley muffed a punt that was eventually recovered by Senatobia on the Water Valley 21 yard line with 6:23 remaining in the first quarter. After another trademark stand by the Blue Devil defense, Senatobia appeared to have let the opportunity pass, as the Warriors missed a 38-yard field goal. However, a 15 yard roughing the kicker penalty against Water Valley gave Senatobia the ball on the Blue Devil 6-yard line. On the ensuing play, Senatobia quarterback Wesley Davidson rushed into the end zone to put the Warriors in front 7-0.
The Blue Devils offense, guided by junior quarterback Josh Johnson in his first career start, answered immediately by way of Logan. After a 4-yard run by Johnson, followed by an incomplete pass, the junior running back/safety standout broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run. A Senatobia unsportsmen-like conduct penalty spared J.J. Hardy’s missed extra point, and Johnson ran in for the Blue Devils two-point conversion on the next play, putting Water Valley ahead 8-7 with 3:27 left in the first quarter.
Senatobia capitalized on extended drive and a personal foul on Embry on their next drive, converting a 32 yard field goal to go ahead 10-8 with 10:17 in the second quarter.
Once again, Water Valley quickly snatched the momentum again, as Johnson connected with Tank Hervey on a 53 yard touchdown pass with 8:02 left in the second quarter. After a successful two point conversion catch from D’ante Rogers, the Blue Devils moved into a 16-10 lead.
“Tank’s been playing well, but for a bunch of different reasons, we haven’t been able to get the ball to him,” said Embry. “He played well tonight and we’re starting to broaden what we can do.”
Although the first half scoring was capped by Hervey’s touchdown reception, Senatobia took a tremendous advantage just before the half as Logan suffered a shoulder injury that eventually forced the Blue Devil leader out of the game.
“It’s a physical sport and people get injured, and your backups have to come in and perform, that’s just part of football, sometimes the deep team wins,” said Embry.
Water Valley looked to increase their momentum in their opening drive of the second half, but unfortunately for the Blue Devils, disaster struck again. After struggling mightily to come back after halftime, Logan fumbled on Water Valley’s first play, with Senatobia recovering on the Blue Devil 12.
Senatobia’s Quintavius Burdett scored on the next play, putting the Warriors ahead 17-16 on a 12-yard touchdown run with 11:44 left in the third quarter.
On the Blue Devils next possession, as Johnson, who completed four of 15 passes for 164 yards on the night, threw his first of three interceptions of the night. Senatobia took over on the Water Valley 37 yard line, but the Blue Devil defense forced the Warriors out on a fourth down stand by freshman corner back Chris Conard.
“He (Johnson) did some things good, I was proud of him. He did some things that showed his ability, and he did some things that he won’t do again because of experience,” said Embry. “He’s a good athlete and he’s going to be a good quarterback.”
“The constant theme defensively in the first four games has been effort and trying to get better,” said defensive coordinator Richard Russo. “I’m excited the kids are taking pride in our defensive scheme.”
After runs by Buckley, Johnson, and wide receiver Cory Carr pushed the Blue Devils inside Senatobia territory, Water Valley made yet another costly mistake, as Johnson’s pass was intercepted again. The Warriors returned the interception to the Water Valley 25-yard line, setting up a Josh Garrett 19-yard touchdown run with 5:29 remaining in the fourth, putting Senatobia ahead 24-16.
Water Valley marched the ball down the field with nine straight rushing attempts, setting up a third and twelve on the Senatobia 12 yard line with 35.4 seconds remaining in the game. A delay of game penalty pushed the Blue Devils back, Water Valley fell victim to a tough officiating miscue, as quarterback turned wide receiver Leo Daniels was held from the line of scrimmage into the end zone with no pass interference call coming from the officials. Johnson’s fourth down attempt was intercepted again in the end zone, as the Warriors clinched a hard fought 24-16 victory with 23.2 seconds left in the game.
“We’re getting better, we played good tonight (Friday). That’s what I told the guys, sometimes you play good against a good team and you don’t win,” said Embry. “I’m very proud of them, we’re getting better every day at practice and sometimes in a building process you take steps but it still hurts.”