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WATER VALLEY – The Philadelphia Tornadoes from Region 3-2A traveled to Water Valley for the opening round of the MHSAA Class 2A Playoffs on Friday, Nov. 3. The Blue Devils faced a 16 to zero halftime deficit but displayed grit and a never-quit attitude as they pulled within one score during the third quarter two times. However, their comeback attempts were thwarted as numerous starters went down with injuries that did not allow them to return. Philadelphia ultimately pulled away en route to a 48 to 15 final score, eliminating the 2023 Blue Devils from the playoffs.
Philadelphia received the opening kickoff and the Blue Devils defense held strong, forcing a punt. Water Valley wasted little time being explosive on offense – on the fourth play of the drive, Jaden Morgan went up the middle to gash the Tornadoes’ defense for a 56-yard rush. The Philadelphia defender had the angle on Morgan and caught him at the six-yard line. The Blue Devil scoring threat would stall with a missed field goal.
Morgan would end his Blue Devil career with yet another 100-yard rushing performance as he had 19 rushes for 114 yards and a rushing touchdown. On the ensuing drive the Tornadoes found their rhythm and got into the endzone on a fourth down attempt that went for a 34-yard passing touchdown. They added the two-point conversion on a three-yard rush off the left end.
In the second quarter, the Blue Devils again broke into Tornado territory thanks to a Tyler Richardson to Taylen Johnson 27-yard reception. Johnson would have a career night as he recorded 106 yards receiving on six catches to add to his two interceptions on Defense. Unfortunately, back-to-back false start penalties proved to be a drive killer, and the Blue Devils were forced to punt.
Philadelphia would put together another solid drive capped off by a 23-yard rushing touchdown off their right tight end. Johnson would end two Tornadoes’ drives with interceptions, leaving the halftime score at 16 to zero in favor of the visitors.
The Blue Devils made some halftime adjustments and came out swinging in the third quarter as a Reid Burress fumble recovery set up the Blue Devils with the short field and Morgan pushed it in for the touchdown. Richardson added the two-point conversion on the quarterback scramble on a designed passing play. The Blue Devils’ defense forced a quick three-and-out and got the ball down by one score with a chance to tie the game up. Defensively, the Blue Devils were paced by Burress and Donalvin Wilson, who had 10 total tackles each, and Will Embry and Jack Woodard with seven total stops.
Misfortune struck as Water Valley fumbled a reverse play and set up Philadelphia with a short field. The Tornadoes capitalized with a 19-yard rushing touchdown. The conversion attempt was stopped by Jy Williams. The fireworks continued as on the ensuing drive, Richardson found Johnson for a 42-yard aerial touchdown strike and Gabe Butler added the point after to pull within seven points, 22 to 15, late in the third quarter. All momentum was lost as a called deep kickoff hung up short and was fielded by the Tornado deep safety who took it 61 yards for the touchdown.
The fourth quarter was a nightmare scenario as the Blue Devils lost three starters seemingly back-to-back-to-back for the game. This coupled with short fields meant the final frame was all Philadelphia as they pulled away to seal the game and end the 2023 football season for the home team.
In the Post Game Huddle, Head Coach Clint Faust thanked the seniors for everything they have done for the Blue Devil program during the past six years. He challenged the underclassmen to build on what they have left in the weight room, in the classroom, and on the practice field.
Water Valley finished the 2023 Campaign at 4-7 and Region 2-2A Runners-Up during a season that fielded a team with a great number of players with little to no varsity experience, allowing them to grow up on the field.
The Blue Devils are scheduled to play in a spring football game in May.