COLLINSVILLE — Up until this point of his high school career, Austin Davidson garnered accolades for his prowess on the baseball diamond.
This season, the first-year West Lauderdale quarterback has shown he can play a little football, too.
Davidson threw for two touchdowns and a game-high 77 yards in two quarters of work Friday as the Knights defeated Kemper County 50-8 on West Lauderdale’s homecoming.
“I thought we did really well,” said Davidson, a senior. “We came off a tough loss against Neshoba, but I thought we did everything we were supposed to do.”
Davidson, who ended the evening 3 of 4 in passing, threw touchdown passes of 44 and 26 yards to Bradlee Ott and Jason McKinney, respectively, in the first half before he and the rest of the West Lauderdale first team watched the second half of the game from the sideline.
Knights running back Taylor Turnage rushed for 80 yards on three carries and had touchdown runs of 56 and 15 yards. The senior entered the game second on the team in rushing, and his two ground scores Friday were firsts this season.
“We came in prepared all week, and coach told us that we just have to stay focused on (Kemper County) and that this was another game for us,” said Turnage, who had a long of 56 yards. “I just knew we had to come out and have a good week, and I felt like I had to get the job done.”
West Lauderdale’s (4-1) Eli Bryan put the Knights ahead 8-0 after a 9-yard run and a two-point conversion, and defensive back Phillip Naylor recorded a pick-six in the opening quarter to give West Lauderdale a 15-0 lead after a successful PAT by Braden Luke. Luke was 6 of 6 on extra-point attempts.
Ja’Karius Grant rushed for a 40-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and West Lauderdale led 50-0 at halftime.
“I’m very proud of our kids,” West Lauderdale coach Brock Clay said. “Our kids never really knew it was homecoming this week, and that’s exactly what we try to preach. We have a great fan base and great student body support. But our kids bought in to, ‘Let’s play football,’ and that’s exactly what we did. We came out; we executed; we were sharp and crisp… Coach (Daniel) Knox and Coach (Jordan) Wren did a fabulous job offensively, Coach (Daniel) Young and Coach (Daniel) Calvert did a fabulous job defensively, and that was a great formula for success tonight.”
Kemper County quarterback Deonte Rush led the Wildcats with 23 yards rushing, and he was 6 of 14 in passing, including a 59-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Collins in the fourth quarter.
Kemper County dressed 28 players Friday, an uptick from the 22 players first-year Wildcats coach John McKenzie has become accustomed to trotting out this season. Kemper County is still seeking its first win of the year, but McKenzie said he’s prepared for the long haul.
“There are some growing pains right now, and we’re going to go through our bumps until we get it right,” McKenzie said. “We’ll get better. I have three seniors on the team; I’m playing a lot of ninth-grade guys who it’s their first time being in a varsity situation. It’s different for them, and experience is the best teacher. No matter how much I tell them, when they’re out there doing it and seeing something for themselves, they’re learning.”
Davidson, who is playing football for the first time at West Lauderdale, said although his views on Friday nights in the fall have shifted from the stands to behind center, the decision to play has been worth it. He did, however, point to one noticeable difference between life on the gridiron and life on the diamond.
“It’s definitely more physical — you get beat up a little more,” Davidson said with a laugh.
Up next: West Lauderdale travels to Southeast Lauderdale next Friday, while Kemper County (0-5) visits Wilkinson County.