By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
Philadelphia expected its defense to lead the way this season.
It certainly did just that Friday night in Vimville as the Tornadoes held Southeast Lauderdale to negative yardage much of the way in a 53-6 rout.
"We have so many guys returning over there and we thought it'd be the strength of our team, and so far it has been," Philadelphia coach Teddy Dyess said. "We're only giving up a little more than 5 points a game and they've had to carry us early until we got our legs under us on offense.
"I can't say enough about our kids on defense, flying around and play hard."
Southeast, which ended the night with 1 yard of offense, forced a three-and-out on Philly's opening possession and then the Tigers (2-6, 1-1 in Division 5-3A) hit a 4-yard pass from Andrew Black to Jarrett Jenkins on their first play.
It was pretty much all downhill from there. Southeast lost a yard on the next play and after a penalty, Black was sacked on third down. The Tigers ran 21 offensive plays in the first half and had just three plays that netted positive yardage and ended the half with minus-27 yards of offense in the half.
"This is a good team we played," Southeast coach Charles Black said. "And we can't help them, they are good enough to win on their own without any help from us. Philadelphia is a good football team and they are where we want to be.
"We saw film on them and there's not a team that's scored more than what we did there. They're very good and well-coached."
Led by that aggressive and attacking defense, which intercepted two passes, the Tornadoes turned to its power rushing attack to set the tone offensively. Following that initial three-and-out, the Tornadoes (8-0, 2-0) scored on their next seven drives to lead 46-0 at halftime. Quarterback Romon Gray broke loose on a 31-yard run after faking a speed sweep to set up a 1-yard scoring run from Jacardius Griffin, who added a two-point conversion, and Philly led 8-0.
Griffin, who finished the game with 107 yards on 15 carries, tacked on two more touchdowns. The junior scored on a 45-yard run with 10:37 left in the second quarter as he cut back two times in the secondary to weave through Tiger defenders. That score came after Philadelphia recovered a squib kick and gave the Tornadoes a 29-0 lead. With 3:10 left in the half, Griffin scored from 2 yards out to make it 43-0 and capped a short field set up by a Johntreal Pickens interception.
The Tornadoes tacked on a 20-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the half from John Harold Smith to make it 46-0. Prior to that, Gray had his shining moments as well. Facing a fourth-and-6 from the Southeast 32 late in the first quarter, the junior rolled out right and threw a strike to Kaylon Gray for a touchdown that staked the Tornadoes to a 15-0 lead. Gray completed 4 of 6 passes for 102 yards and he rushed for 131 yards on 10 carries, including a 20-yard touchdown run.
"We like playing power football but the the great thing is, tonight they gave us a nine-man box early and Romon was able to spin it out there and our receivers made some plays," Dyess said. "We have the ability to throw the football when we have to, and we were able to do that tonight.
"We had success throwing it early and then we were able to pound it like we normally do."
Philly finished with 317 yards rushing, getting a 1-yard touchdown from Kenshon Henderson in the second quarter and a 12-yard score from Ahmad Tatum with little more than a minute remaining in the fourth.
Southeast, though, did have one big drive. Taking over on the Philly 44 following the Tornadoes' lone turnover, the Tigers used five plays to mount their scoring drive. On the first play, Black hit Damion Willis for 7 yards and a 15-yard penalty against Philly quickly moved Southeast deep into Tornado territory. Using rollouts to help negate the Tornadoes' rush, Black then completed three straight passes — 13 yards to Jenkins, 3 yards to Dylan Willis and 4 yards to Damion Willis to put the Tigers in third-and-goal from the 1. Padarius Martin carried it across from there with 2:13 left in the third.
Black completed 8 of 19 passes for 43 yards, while the Tigers were held to minus-42 yards rushing on 14 carries.
"We told them at halftime it was a new game and we need to build on this and we did," coach Black said. "That was the one positive we can take from this."