Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007
‘Biggest win in school history’
By BARRY BURLESON
Byhalia High School football is officially on the map.
The Indians shocked tradition-rich Senatobia 38-37 Friday night, setting off a huge celebration on a home field that has only been in use since 2002. That’s when Byhalia got back in the varsity football business after a 20-year absence.
“This is the biggest win in school history,” second-year coach Devin Rutherford said amidst hugs. “Nobody thought we could slay the giant.”
And just like David, quarterback Marcus Thomas used a sling to do it - the sling of his arm. Thomas was 29 of 45 passing for 390 yards, two touchdowns, three two-point conversions and three interceptions.
“It’s an aerial show,” Rutherford said about his high-flying offense. “We throw it around and hope we catch more than we drop and more than we throw to the other team.”
The Indians definitely caught them on this night, particularly Chris Hill and Marquise Green. Hill reeled in 14 for 180 yards, two touchdowns and two two-point conversions. Green snagged nine for 156 yards and a two-point conversion. Hill, also playing defense, caught two of the Warriors’ passes, too, one of those for a touchdown.
The Indians are above .500 for the first time since reinstating football. They’re 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the district. Senatobia, which won a state championship in 2004, dropped to 5-2 and 2-1.
Believe it or not, defense dominated the first quarter. It was scoreless.
Then the Warriors’ defense got the visitors on the scoreboard first. Bedford Hunt intercepted a pass and returned it 11 yards for the score. Wesley Davidson added the extra point.
Then Green ignited the home folks. He received the ensuing kickoff, made a couple of cuts and sped 65 yards to the Senatobia 28.
The Indians scored in four plays - including passes of 12 yards and 15 yards from Thomas to Hill, the latter being a touchdown. Green ran for the two-point conversion. The Indians were up 8-7.
That lead ballooned to 22-7 in the second quarter. Thomas culminated a 63-yard drive with a 2-yard quarterback sneak for six points. The big play of the march was a 43-yard pass to Green. Thomas also threw to Green for the two-point conversion.
About six minutes later, the Byhalia defense got some points, too. Hill intercepted a pass and returned it 55 yards along the sideline for the score. The try-for-two failed. There were 58 seconds left in the half.
Senatobia showed its grit. The Warriors returned the ensuing kickoff 31 yards to the Byhalia 45 and cut into the Indians’ lead in just five plays. After a 5-yard flag on Senatobia, V.J. Street got loose for 34 yards and a first down at the 15. The touchdown came on Hunt’s 5-yard quarterback keeper with six seconds to go. Davidson’s kick cut Senatobia’s deficit to 22-14 at intermission.
“We showed in the first quarter and second quarter what type of team we can be,” Rutherford said. “We were up 22-7 at one point. But we’ve got to keep pressing. That’s part of our learning process. Once you get up, you have to learn how to stay up - and not get quite so excited.”
The Warriors were back in business early in the second half, when Folando Bohanna’s interception gave them the ball at their own 34. They ate up the bulk of the third-quarter clock with a 66-yard, 14-play scoring drive. On fourth and one from the Byhalia 5, Hunt kept the ball on the option and got the six. He ran the same play for the two-point conversion to knot the score at 22.
The lead see-sawed the rest of the way.
The Indians responded with their own long scoring march, traveling 84 yards in 13 plays. Big plays were plentiful, one being a 27-yard completion from Thomas to a “high-up-in-the-air” Green, who caught it ran to the Warrior 22. The touchdown came on a fourth and goal play from the 6. Thomas threw it up for Hill, who made a leaping snag in the back corner of the end zone. Hill reached over a defender to make another nice catch for the two-point conversion. The Indians led 30-22 with 9:52 to go in the game.
The Warriors quickly went back on the attack, starting with a 47-yard kickoff return. Street was the workhorse from there, earning two first downs, before a scrambling Hunt dashed 14 yards up the middle for the touchdown. Street ran for the two points. The game was tied at 30 with 6:41 left.
Senatobia’s Hunt then picked off a pass and returned it 26 yards to the Byhalia 9. Street carried for the score from there. Davidson’s kick put the visitors up 37-30 with 6:13 to go.
Byhalia did not quit. The aggressive Indian offense went 80 yards in just six plays. Rutherford’s squad reached enemy territory on a 22-yard pass from Thomas to Hill. Three plays later Thomas hit Green in stride, and Green got loose, a 40-yard gain all the way to the 2-inch line. Thomas scored on the quarterback sneak. He then found his favorite receiver on the night, Hill, who went to the ground to make the game-winning, two-point catch.
The Byhalia defense stood tall the rest of the way. Hill had another interception and later stopped Senatobia on a fourth and 18.
Next up this Friday night for Byhalia is another home district game, this one against Tunica Rosa Fort. The Lions are 3-4 overall and 1-2 in-district after a 26-19 loss last week to Holly Springs.
“The playoffs still depend on these next two games (versus Rosa Fort and Holly High),” Rutherford said. “Every game we play the rest of the way is the biggest in school history.
“It’s a season of firsts. We have to heal some injuries, fix some mistakes and keep getting better.”
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