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Vikings Stall Two Game Winning Streak

Blue Devil Coach Brad Embry confers with an official following a safety call late in the game. – Photo by Mark Anthony

Team captains posed for a quick photo before last Friday’s game against North Pontotoc. The captains included (from left) Zack Caulder, Josh Johnson, D.C. Logan and Barrett. – Photo by Mark Anthony

Longtime team physician Dr. Joe Walker takes a look at Zenty Allen’s knee following a minor injury last Friday night. – Photo by Mark Anthony

Blue Devil quarterback Josh Johnson waits for the snap during a muddy game last Friday against North Pontotoc. Wet conditions hampered the Blue Devils’ ability to effectively pass. – Photo by Reid Bankston

By Reid Bankston
Sports Reporter

ECRU – Going on the road to face an undefeated North Pontotoc team was never going to be easy for Water Valley.  Going on the road in search of a third straight win without several starters, well that was what Blue Devil head coach was faced with last Friday night.

  The flu bug that has swept through area schools and communities forced Water Valley to go with several inexperienced players on Friday night, hampering the execution on both sides of the ball.  The Blue Devils were valiant and resilient, but in the end, costly mistakes and lack of execution ended Water Valley’s (2-2) win streak with a 16-14 loss to the Vikings (5-0).

  “We played hard, but we didn’t play very good.  We didn’t execute, when you get in there and get a chance, you have to know who to block,” said Embry, who was quick to dismiss the flu bug as an excuse for the loss.  “That doesn’t matter, somebody else better step in there, that’s why you go to practice.  That’s why you have 56 players instead of 11.”

  Water Valley avoided an early deficit thanks to an interception by Adam Langham on the Water Valley 10 yard line with 49 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but it was the Viking defense that one upped Water Valley on the next possession.

  Backed up deep in their own territory, the Blue Devils dropped back to pass, only for a Viking to jump a short route by the Water Valley receiver, and intercept the pass,  returning it seven yards for a touchdown.  After a converted extra point, the Vikings went up 7-0 as time expired in the first quarter.

  Water Valley responded just before the halftime, as senior running back D.C. Logan scored on a five-yard touchdown run, capping off a 10 play, 62 yard scoring drive, and tying the game at seven.  

    The Blue Devils came up with a huge play with just 36 seconds to go before the half, as C.J. Jackson blocked a Viking punt, allowing Keldrick Hooper to scoop and score, giving Water Valley a 14-7 lead heading into the half.

    “We got pressure up the middle and C.J. Jackson deflected it and Keldrick picked it up and ran it in.  That gave us a lot of momentum heading into the locker room,” said defensive coordinator Richard Russo.

    A defensive struggle ensued as the second half got under way, as both teams traded possessions early.  However, it was another Blue Devil turnover that presented the Vikings another golden opportunity.  A Logan fumble on the Water Valley 14 yard line was punished three plays later, as the Vikings rushed to the end zone from three yards out, evening the game up at 14 with 10:12 to go in the fourth quarter.

    On Water Valley’s next possession, a rattled and sputtering Blue Devil offense shot themselves in the foot once again, as a miscommunication in the backfield resulted in Johnson scrambling, eventually leading to an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone, resulting in a safety for North Pontotoc.  

    The Vikings took a 16-14 lead, and would win by that same margin.

    “It was a running play and we had a missed hand off in the backfield and he tried to make a something happen and it was a good play by them.  That is what I’m talking about executing,” said Embry.  “You’ve got to learn from those things and not let it happen again this year.  

     Water Valley was stopped on a fourth and one at the North Pontotoc 33 yard line on their next possession, and another Johnson interception with 55 seconds to go in the game wrapped up the win for the Vikings.  North Pontotoc, who made life tough for the Blue Devil offense throughout the night, was bound and determined to not let Logan and Zenty Allen beat them on the ground, forcing Johnson to throw more than Embry would’ve liked.

    “Their defense dictated that we needed to throw the ball some and that’s not good in these conditions, but that’s a good job by them.  We threw it okay for us, but we have to get better as the year goes on and we know that,” said Embry.  “They’re (North Pontotoc) pretty good, and that’s what happens when you don’t execute against a good team.  You get a big play here and there, but you’re not consistent.”

    Water Valley must now turn their attention to Independence, a team that the Blue Devils defeated 26-22 last season, as Embry hopes his squad will be healthy and ready to go.

    “We’ll be fine, our kids are resilient,” said Embry.  “We’ll respond and get healthy and find some Tamiflu or whatever that stuff is and buy a box of it.”

    The Blue Devil defense will also be looking to increase an impressive streak of holding opposing offenses to under 150 yards.  Water Valley has been able to accomplish that feat in each of the last three games.

  “They (Independence) remember that knot we put on their head last year, so we better come out swinging,” said defensive coordinator Richard Russo.  “If we execute, I think we’ll be okay.”

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