CLARKSDALE — This was supposed to be the game where the Northside Gators finally fell.
The East Webster Wolverines entered the third round of the 2A State
Football Playoffs with an 11-1 record and ranked No. 4 in the Mississippi Associated Press 2A State Poll, which was one spot ahead of the Gators.
The fifth-ranked Gators had other plans and used 350 yards on the ground and 445 total yards of offense to record a 42-8 victory here Friday at James E. Miller Stadium on the campus of Coahoma Community College to advance to the 2A North Half Championship Game.
The Gators (13-0) will host the Charleston High School Tigers Friday night at James E. Miller Stadium on the campus of Coahoma Community College as the winner will play for the 2A State Championship on Dec. 7 at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. East Webster concluded its year at 11-2.
Northside head coach Tavares Johnson Sr. knew the Wolverines’ strengths, but he also knew the advantage his team carried.
“We felt like we were faster; we knew they were bigger, but we were going to utilize what God blessed us with, which was our team speed,” said Johnson.
The team, who has worn a Gator-sized chip on their shoulders all season, saw that gain a considerable amount of weight due to some pre-game chatter.
“It was said that we hadn’t played anybody, it was said that we’re soft, and I have the text messages to prove it,” said Johnson. “It was said, I assume, because we’re from the Delta that the coaches here can’t coach, so we just used all of that as motivation. We wanted to go out and prove to everybody that there is coaching, and there are great players in the Mississippi Delta, and we want all eyes to be on us.”
Despite committing four turnovers, the Gators showed a great deal of heart, according to Johnson, and that was something the team discussed before the contest.
“We were resilient tonight,” said Johnson. “I told them, regardless of what happens to keep fighting. I didn’t say keep playing but keep fighting. We were going to play each play like it was our last play, and if a team came out on top of us, then we will shake their hands at the end and say good game.”
The Gators and the Wolverines started the contest like two heavyweight fighters feeling each other out. Northside fumbled on its opening possession, but the defense forced a punt to get the ball back.
Both teams punted again, but on the Gators’ third possession of the quarter, senior running back Semaj Daniels got things going with a 67-yard touchdown run with 5:21 on the clock. The conversion attempt failed, but the Gators held a 6-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Jaterrence Moore scored on a one-yard plunge, and Thaddeus Latham added the two-point conversion for a 14-0 Northside lead.
The Wolverines got on the board in the second quarter, when Moore mishandled the snap from center and the ball went through the back of the end zone to credit East Webster with a safety to make the score 14-2.
Later in the second quarter, Northside’s DeVes Seaberry picked off East Webster’s Steven Betts and returned the interception 61 yards for a score. Moore added the two-point conversion for a 22-2 lead, and that would remain the score at halftime.
In the second half, the Gators got a touchdown pass from Moore to Karltavis Burrage with the conversion from Tyrese Greyer for a 30-2 lead.
Daniels added a 41-yard touchdown run with seven seconds left in the third quarter for a 36-2 lead.
Betts scored in the fourth quarter for the Wolverines to make the game 36-8, but the Gators responded with a touchdown run from Latham with 3:59 left in the game to give Northside a 42-8 lead.
Seaberry intercepted Betts on the Wolverines’ next possession to close out any hope of the Wolverines scoring again.
The Gators’ defense was dominant again as they had seven sacks and three interceptions. Seaberry recorded four tackles with two interceptions, including the 61-yard pick for a score. Cordarrian Hickman had eight tackles with two sacks, and Terrick Latham had four tackles with an interception.
The defense harassed the East Webster offense most of the night thanks in large part to Terrence Shanks, who finished with five tackles and two sacks. Oscar Price recorded four tackles and a sack, DeAnthony Brown finished with six tackles and TreShun Johnson had five tackles to aid the Northside defense.
Daniels led the offense with 244 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns. Thaddeus Latham had 61 yards on six carries with a touchdown, Moore had 22 yards rushing with a touchdown and completed 9-of-14 passes for 95 yards with two interceptions, Seaberry caught five passes for 73 yards and Burrage caught three passes for 20 yards with a touchdown.