Big plays, late score lift Northwest Rankin over WC

Published 12:33 am Saturday, September 23, 2017

FLOWOOD — Of all the lengthy touchdowns Northwest Rankin scored on Friday night, the shortest turned out to be the biggest.

Jamari Jones threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Montel Gladney with 48 seconds left, and then Northwest Rankin fended off one last desperate drive by Warren Central to beat the Vikings 38-31.

All five of Northwest Rankin’s touchdowns covered more than 20 yards. They went for 61, 90, 51, 70 and 25 yards. The Cougars gained 297 yards on those five plays, and 169 on their other 44 offensive snaps.
Jones finished the game 14-for-21 passing for 291 yards and four touchdowns as the Cougars (4-1, 1-0 Region 2-6A) snapped a five-game losing streak to the Vikings.

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“I was very disappointed in their explosive plays. That’s something that we pride ourselves on, and we were not very good at playing team defense tonight,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “The offense put enough points on the board to win this game, and we weren’t able defensively to minimize the big plays and tackle those explosive backs.”

Northwest Rankin’s big plays were a huge counterpunch to Warren Central’s methodical approach. The Vikings ran for 325 yards and had five drives last three minutes or longer. Quarterback Fred Barnum Jr. ran for 122 yards and a touchdown, running back Corey Wilson Jr. had 107 yards and two TDs, and Anfernee Funchess finished with 95 yards.

The Vikings (3-2, 0-1), though, committed two turnovers in the red zone and had another end a five-minute drive deep inside Northwest Rankin territory.

“I think that was the difference in the game. We were having to drive and their backs were making explosive plays, and we were having to nickel and dime and work,” Morgan said. “We were putting together good, consistent drives, but sometimes when you don’t finish those drives that can swing a ballgame. I was proud of our guys’ fight. I thought we were in it until the very last second. We didn’t quit and handled some things good on that end. But it’s a tough loss and a tough end to be on.”

The back-and-forth game came down to a wild final three minutes. After a Barnum interception gave Northwest Rankin the ball at its own 20, the Cougars went three-and-out and were forced to punt.

Houston Smith was unable to handle a high snap and stumbled into his own end zone as he tried to get a handle on it. The ball wound up on the ground. Warren Central’s Zane McRaney won the race to it and fell on it in the end zone for the touchdown. John William Madison’s PAT tied the game at 31 with 2:21 remaining.

Northwest Rankin didn’t flinch, though. It quickly moved the ball across midfield on its ensuing possession, converted one third down and faced another at the Warren Central 25-yard line.

Jones took a three-step drop and lofted a high, arcing pass toward the right pylon for Gladney. Warren Central’s defensive back seemed to lose track of the ball and let Gladney drift behind him — a similar set up to two earlier TD passes — and Gladney hauled it in at the goal line and walked in untouched for a 38-31 lead with 48 seconds to go.

“We big-played them in the first half, no doubt about it. We caught them with the eyes in the backfield a couple of times and got behind them. I thought the quarterback did a really good job of dropping a couple of footballs in there,” Northwest coach Toby Collums said. “I thought he made a huge play on the last touchdown, because he saw the one-on-one matchup and he took the shot. It takes guts to do that.”

Warren Central had one last chance. Starting from his own 33, Barnum completed three passes in a row to move the ball to the Northwest Rankin 13-yard line with eight seconds left.

The Vikings got two shots at the tying score, but neither panned out. Barnum was rushed on the first try and barely got the ball away as he was hit to avoid a game-ending sack. On the final play, all of his downfield receivers were covered and he tried to throw a checkdown to Funchess along the right sideline. The throw was down near Funchess’ knees, however, and he dropped it at the 8-yard line as time expired.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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