By Reid Bankston
WATER VALLEY– Although only the second game in the season, Water Valley’s 35-0 victory over Calhoun City could prove to be a vital win. After falling to county rival Coffeeville last week, the Blue Devils’ character and resiliency was evident in all phases of the game, as head coach Brad Embry’s bunch put together a dominant performance.
“That’s what we’re capable of. We played as hard last week as we did tonight, but last week we made some mistakes here and there,” Embry said of the win “Our kids took it upon themselves to fix those tonight. This is a big win and that’s a good football team (Calhoun City). Now it’s or job to build on it and maintain it.”
Defensive coordinator Richard Russo celebrated the unit’s first shutout since 2005 against North Panola, as the Blue Devil defense only surrendered 153 yards, many of which came once the outcome was clearly decided.
Water Valley opened the scoring after Calhoun City roughed the Blue Devil punter to keep a lengthy drive alive, eventually leading to D.C. Logan scoring from three yards out with 11:00 to go in the second quarter, giving Water Valley a 7-0 lead.
Calhoun City did more damage to their own cause on their next possession, as Keldrick Hooper recovered a Wildcat fumble, leading to another Logan touchdown run, moving the score to 14-0. Hooper, along with fellow linebackers J.D. Fondon and C.J. Jackson, kept the Calhoun City offense stifled for most of the night. The trio of linebackers combined for 29 tackles, although it was Hooper who stole the show.
“He’s (Hooper) got a motor. Keldrick is playing like he worked out in the off season,” said Embry. “He’s a 10th grader but he owns the weight room at Water Valley and it shows.”
After Calhoun City turned the ball over on downs on their next drive, Water Valley’s Zenty Allen recorded his first career touchdown as a Blue Devil on a two yard run, capping off an eight-play drive highlighted by two big Logan runs.
Although the Water Valley lead stood at 21-0 with two and a half quarters to play, it was clear there was no Calhoun City comeback on the cards.
“They knew that wasn’t us,” said Russo referring to his defense’s performance against Coffeeville. “We’re the team that played against Vardaman and we’re the team that played Calhoun City. We’re going to hit you in the mouth. This is how the staff envisioned our defense playing.”
Coming out of halftime, it was clearly a matter of when, not if, the Blue Devils would score again, and sure enough, their opportunity came on the end of another Calhoun City fumble recovered by Hooper. Allen, who combined with Logan to rush for over 280 yard’s and all five Blue Devil touchdowns, punished the Wildcats again, this time with a one yard touchdown run with 5:19 left to go in the third, pushing the lead to 28-0.
The running backs were pretty hot tonight, so it’s a lot easier to hand it to them,” said Embry.
Logan punched in another one yard touchdown run with 8:16 to go in the fourth quarter to cap off the Blue Devil scoring at 35-0, providing the exclamation mark on the end of a dominant all around Water Valley performance.
A performance that Embry is not quick to take for granted considering the emotional state of his young Blue Devils after a bitter rivalry loss one week ago.
“When you play a team and you don’t play like you want to and it’s a rivalry game, for the kids to come back and play like they did tonight tells you something about our kids, it tells you what type of character they have,” said Embry.
Next up for Water Valley (1-1) will be their first road trip of the season against J.Z. George.
“I know they’re well coached and they’re a good football team. I know their coaches, I coached with two of them at Tupelo, and it’ll be a good test for us going on the road,” said Embry.
J.Z. George, who lost out on a playoff spot with a 35-21 loss at the hand of Water Valley last season, is expected to feature an aerial attack that could plague a youthful, yet athletic, Blue Devil secondary.
“They’re going to throw the ball around and put some pressure on our secondary. They’re tall, fast and rangy and they have a very accurate quarterback,” said Russo. “We just can’t have busted coverages or busted assignments.”
How the Blue Devils will respond in their first road test remains to be seen, but make no mistake about it, Water Valley will be much happier on their travels with their first victory of the season under their belt.