By Rocky Higginbotham / Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
There were some mighty big rivalry games in the area Friday night -- as Philadelphia battled Neshoba Central and Louisville took on Noxubee County, not to mention the tussle at Ray Stadium between Meridian High School and national powerhouse South Panola.
But over here at Newton County, the Cougars continued to take care of business.
Newton County used a dominating start to take control over visiting Kosciusko, and remained unbeaten on the young season with a 33-21 win over the Whippets.
The 3-0 Cougars jumped to a 20-0 advantage and withstood a flurry of second-half rallies by Kosy, much to the delight of a monster Homecoming crowd.
“We’ve been starting big every game and that’s been important for us,” Newton County coach Jackie Williamson said. “But tonight we had to fight through some adversity on offense and defense and I’m proud of the way we battled.
“We’re trying to get better and we needed this kind of game; we needed to win a tough game and I’m happy with the way we fought and responded.”
Dandy Dozen senior Jamoral Graham and Trent Hudnall churned out 81 yards rushing apiece and Jacob Edwards threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns to pace Newton County.
Everything clicked early for the Cougars, who used a pair of 10-play scoring drives and a stifling defense to set the tone.
Newton County took the opening drive 73 yards in 10 plays for a score -- getting a couple of third-down conversions along the way and a 2-yard touchdown run from Demetrius Gooden to cap the march. Bryden Reed’s point-after kick made it 7-0 with 8:31 still left in the first quarter.
Just a little more than 2 minutes later, Graham had his most electrifying play of the night -- taking a punt to the house from 53 yards away. Reed’s kick made it 14-0 with 6:13 still on the first quarter clock.
The second 10-play scoring march of the first half for Newton County culminated with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Edwards to De’Andre Wansley -- pushing the Cougars to a 20-0 bulge.
It stayed that way until the third quarter, when the teams swapped touchdowns and turnovers.
The first of two Tim Wade touchdown passes got the Whippets on the board, although Edwards answered with a 7-yard TD toss to Jahsiyah Rhinehouse that made it 26-7.
There were five total turnovers in the third period, and Koscuisko actually lost fumbles three times in a matter of five plays. But each time the Whippets got new life, Newton County seemed to snuff it out.
“We had some adversity and they got things going there for a while in the second half,” Williamson said. “But again, it was good to see our guys battle through it and make plays.
Kosciusko got as close as 26-15 with possession, but Hudnall busted a 14-yard scoring run with 1:42 remaining to put the game out of reach.
Newton County finished with a balanced attack of 351 yards, rushing for 191 while Edwards hit 13-of-20 passes for 160 through the air. DeRyan Wansley’s three grabs for 54 yards led the way.
Kosciusko finished with 265 yards of total offense -- 203 of it in the second half. In the first half, the Whippets managed just 62 yards, 30 of them coming on a draw play with just over a minute remaining before halftime.