By JOEL McNEECE
The Coffeeville Pirates, coached by Bruce native Jamal Jackson, used a power running attack and an opportunistic defense to defeat Calhoun City in Friday's season opener for both teams.
It took the Pirates only two plays to crack the scoreboard first. Devonius Turner, who rushed for 127 yards on the night, broke a tackle and out ran the rest of the Wildcat defense en route to a 69-yard touchdown. The PAT failed for a 6-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
'City responded on its third play, when QB J.R. Jennings, who completed 6-14 for 117 yards, hit Demarius Howard on a quick hitch. Howard shook the lone defender and went the distance for a 71-yard touchdown. Raheem Roberson added the extra point for a 7-6 'City lead.
After several punt exchanges, Coffeeville forced a Wildcat fumble on their 41-yard line. From there the Pirates marched to the end zone in five plays, scoring on a 1-yard dive by QB Dannie Smith, who finished the game with 61 yards on the ground. The Wildcats stuffed the 2-point conversion for a 12-7 halftime lead for the Pirates.
The Calhoun City defense answered the call early in the second half. Jase Chandler picked off a Pirate pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. Roberson's extra point put the Wildcats up 14-12 early in the third quarter.
Coffeeville answered later in the quarter with a 70-yard touchdown drive, culminated by a 6-yard scoring run by Smith. Dontae Harris added the extra point to put the Pirates up 19-14.
Heath Browning recovered a Coffeeville fumble at the end of the third quarter to set up the Wildcats' next score. Five consecutive runs by Jennings, who ran 15 times for 64 yards in the game, carried the 'Cats to the 5-yard line. Jennings injured his shoulder on the final run, however, and wasn't able to return to the game. Demarius Howard took over at QB and quickly punched the ball into the end zone. The 2-point conversion failed for a 20-19 'City lead with 8:46 left in the game.
The Pirates answered on the ensuing drive. Facing third and 13 from their own 47-yard line, Jimmy Pomerlee took a pitch from QB Smith, rolled right, and unleashed a deep throw to Rakeenon Nicholson who caught the ball 10 yards behind the nearest defender and cruised into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. It was the only completed pass on four attempts by the Pirates in the game. Harris' extra point put the Pirates up 26-20 with five minutes to play.
“Giving up the big plays really killed us,” Wildcat Coach Perry Liles said.
After stuffing 'City on four downs on the ensuing possession, the Pirate offense struck quickly when Desmond Butler broke through the line and raced 59 yards for a touchdown. He finished the game with 91 yards rushing. The extra point was blocked to keep the score 32-20 with less than three minutes left.
Howard, who was 3-5 passing for 36 yards, hit passes to Tray Pratt and Tavion Primer to rush the Wildcats inside the Pirate 10. Howard punched it in from 2-yards out with 22 seconds left on the game clock. Roberson's extra point closed the score to 32-27.
Coffeeville recovered the ensuing onside kick and took a knee to run out the clock and clinch the victory.
“We had far too many mistakes and turnovers to be successful,” Liles said.
The Pirates outrushed the Wildcats 331 yards to 148 in the game to help coach Jamal Jackson, a native of Bruce, to his first win as a head coach.
“We played a hard game,” Jackson said. “I’m proud of my kids. I think we have a chance to be good.”
Jennings led the Wildcats with 64 yards on the ground. Avery Hill added 52 yards on six carries.
Liles praised the effort of Howard and lineman Rokedrick Mays, but said overall they have a lot to get corrected before Friday.
The Wildcats will host Houston Friday night. The Hilltoppers are coming off a 33-0 loss to Eupora.
“Houston uses a lot of shotgun formation and like Coffeeville they have a lot of good athletes,” Liles said. “They didn’t play well either last week so I expect them to be much better when they come here Friday night.”
Liles said Jennings' shoulder remained sore in the early part of the week, but he expects him to play some Friday. If he can’t go, Howard will get the start at QB.