By Bryan Davis
Darius Ellis broke free for a long touchdown run for the Jackson Provine Rams on his team’s first drive in Friday night’s first round playoff game against the West Point Green Wave. The Rams would not score again until their final drive of the game, and between those two high points, the Green Wave put together a solid offensive effort, led by LaKenderic Thomas and Tez Pulliam.
West Point’s 36-14 victory over the Rams sends them to round two, at Oxford. on Friday night.
“Provine’s in the playoffs for a reason,” said West Point head coach Chris Chambless. “They’re a good football team, and we beat a good football team tonight. That speaks volumes for our guys.”
Friday night’s game started with a solid Provine drive that lasted six offensive plays. The last one was a break away run by Ellis, deep in his own territory, all the way to the end zone for a 6-0 Rams lead after just two and half minutes of play.
“We didn’t run our tracks at linebacker like we should have, like we worked on in practice, but we settled in and played nice,” said Chambless. “I hated they got one at the end, but they did. We’re going to have to play a little harder.”
It took less time, however, for the Green Wave to respond. Dequinten Spraggins set the tone for the rest of the game by blocking Provine’s extra point attempt, leaving it a six-point deficit.
When West Point got the ball back, the offense strung together seven plays, including four first down runs. On the seventh play, Thomas started from nine yards out of the end zone. He barreled through a line of defenders up the middle, taking it all the way in for the Green Wave’s first score of the night. The extra point try made it a 7-6 lead for West Point, a lead the home team would not relinquish.
Now that the offense had responded to Provine’s opening drive effort, it was time for the defense to do the same. The Rams drive lasted seven plays, but on their seventh, they faced a fourth down and seven yards to go. Risking nothing, the Rams punted the ball away to their own 15, where the Green Wave took over.
Thomas started the drive with a 12 yard run to the 27 yard line. Quarterback Justin Cox added a six yard run, and on the next play he completed a pass to Jamarius Tallie for 14 yards.
On a first and 10, Cox took the snap, and he carried the ball toward his own sideline, dodging tacklers and breaking free for a 47 yard touchdown run that gave the Green Wave a 14-6 lead with 2:21 to play in the first quarter.
West Point was not done scoring, thanks to a big Provine mistake. Backed up deep in their own territory, the Rams were facing another fourth down punting situation. This time, the snap went over the punter’s head, rolling out of the back of the end zone for a two-point safety. The Green Wave now led 16-6 with nine seconds to go in the first.
The second quarter began after the Green Wave got the ball back on the kickoff. They moved the ball well down the field, but a second down pass from Cox was intercepted in the end zone for a touchback.
The Green Wave defense was ready to get after the Provine offense again, and they forced a three-and-out on the Rams, who gave the ball back to West Point for another scoring drive in the half.
West Point made the most of it, as Thomas and Pulliam ran up the gut of the Provine defense over and over, before Thomas finally broke free from 19 yards out to score again, giving his team a 22-6 lead.
With a little over six minutes to play in the second, Provine got the ball back, but they were not able to do much more than eat a little time off the clock.
They didn’t tick quite enough time though, as Thomas, Cox and Pulliam led a drive lasting four plays, ending with Thomas leaping into the end zone from six yards out. The PAT made it 29-6, a lead West Point would take into the half.
When the third quarter resumed, West Point got the ball back with a chance to pad their growing lead.
This time it was Pulliam and Mario Virges who led the running attack. After nine plays, Pulliam dove into the end zone for a two-yard touchdown run to make it 36-6 after the PAT.
After that, the Green Wave focused on wiping as much time off the clock as possible.
Late in the fourth quarter, however, West Point thought they had Provine right where they wanted them. It was second and nine, and the Rams were backed up to their own one yard line. Jadarius Hicks, however, broke free and escaped all of the Green Wave defenders, scoring just the second touchdown of the night for Provine.
It would be the Rams’ last score, as West Point was able to run the clock out on their next drive, sealing the win and sending Provine home for the season.
Thomas finished the game with 15 carries for 133 yards and three touchdowns. All of that was accomplished in the first two quarters, as he sat out on offense in the second half.
Cox had eight carries for 124 yards and a touchdown, and Pulliam finished with nine carries and 81 yards and a score.
Cox was 5-for-9 in the air for 56 yards. West Point had 446 total offensive yards, 390 rushing and 56 in the air.
Provine had just 200 offensive yards, 194 rushing and six passing yards.
Throughout the night, fans were updated on other football scores around the state, but all ears were focused on the Oxford-Pearl game. By the fourth quarter, updates strongly indicated that it would be Oxford West Point will face in the second round.
The Green Wave will travel to Oxford High school for that game next Friday night. During the regular season, West Point slipped by Oxford in a district match 22-20.
“We’re 21 points down going into Oxford,” Chambless said. “I told the guys that Oxford got what they wanted. They got us at home in the second round of the playoffs. We’re going to go see what we can do and practice and play as hard as we can and see what happens.”