Four Down Territory: Wrapping up the 2018 football season in Mississippi

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 4, 2018

You’re in Four Down Territory, where we spotlight four notes, nuggets, stats or trends from the weekend that was in Mississippi high school football, college football, and the NFL. This is the final edition of Four Down Territory for the 2018 season.

It wasn’t a great season for Warren Central — the program had its first losing record since 2012 — but some of its players are still being recognized as among the best in Mississippi.

Offensive lineman Reed Buys was selected to the Class 6A All-State first team by the Mississippi Association of Coaches, and defensive lineman Vertez Shorter was a second-team selection.

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Shorter, a senior, was a three-year starter at defensive tackle. This season he had 72 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and a team-high four sacks. He had 8 ½ sacks in his high school career.

Buys will also play in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game on Dec. 17 in Montgomery, Alabama, while his offensive linemate George Owens will play in the Bernard Blackwell Mississippi All-Star Game Saturday in Gulfport.

Buys was a two-year starter at right tackle. Owens played alongside him at right guard and was a three-year starter.

“It’s consistently good. Good as in being leaders. Not only handling their jobs, but being great team guys, getting better every day and not being satisfied with where they are at any given time,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said of his two offensive linemen. “They’re two very high football IQ guys. When you talk about consistency at this level, it really means a lot. Coaches loved them and trusted them and teammates loved them as well. I don’t think there can be a bigger compliment given to a player.”

The 2018 high school football season concluded last weekend with one of the most competitive sets of MHSAA championship games in recent memory.

It was the first time since the MHSAA expanded to six classifications in 2009 that none of the championship games was decided by at least 20 points. West Point’s 27-12 win over West Jones in the Class 5A final was the largest margin of victory.

West Point won its third consecutive state championship. It is 43-2 during that run, with both losses coming to Class 6A power Starkville.

The cumulative margin of victory of 47 points in the six championship games was the lowest in the six-class era. The previous low was 72 points in 2016.

In addition, first-time champions were crowned in Class 6A (Horn Lake), Class 3A (Water Valley) and Class 1A (Nanih Waiya), while a couple of long winning streaks were stopped.

Simmons’ 54-game winning streak and three-year run as Class 1A champion ended with its 21-18 loss to Nanih Waiya. Taylorsville was denied a second straight Class 2A title and had its 25-game streak snapped with a 21-7 loss to Scott Central.

Ole Miss put two players on the Associated Press All-Southeastern Conference first team offense, while Mississippi State had three players on the first-team defense.

For Ole Miss, wide receiver A.J. Brown and tackle Greg Little made it. For Mississippi State, the picks were defensive linemen Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons, and safety Johnathan Abram.
Mississippi State linebacker Erroll Thompson and cornerback Cameron Dantzler were also selected to the second team defense.

Brown was one of only three unanimous selections, along with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagvailoa and Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen.

Tagovailoa and Allen were the SEC’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was the Coach of the Year after leading the Wildcats to a 9-3 record and a berth in the Citrus Bowl.

A panel of 28 writers and broadcasters who cover the SEC voted on the AP All-SEC team.

On Thursday, East Mississippi Community College continued its reign atop the junior college football world by beating Garden City (Kansas) 10-9 in the NJCAA national championship game.

It is East Mississippi’s fifth national title this decade — it also won in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017 — and capped an undefeated season. The Lions went 12-0 as they allowed an average of 11.4 points per game.

EMCC’s defense was the difference in the championship game. It scored the team’s only touchdown on an 11-yard fumble return by Everitt Cunningham in the second quarter, held Garden City to 182 total yards, and snuffed out a two-point conversion attempt in the third quarter that would have given the Broncbusters the lead.

Elsewhere in the junior college ranks, Jones College finished the season ranked No. 5 in the final NJCAA national poll following Sunday’s 27-7 win over Eastern Arizona College in Mississippi Bowl XI Sunday in Perkinston.

Former Vicksburg High star Nick Anderson led Jones (10-2) with eight tackles, including one for loss. Former Warren Central quarterback Fred Barnum Jr. was 5-of-7 passing for 41 yards and a touchdown. Another former VHS star, punter Greg Hayden, averaged 39.6 yards on five punts and ran for a key first down on a fake to keep a scoring drive alive.

Other Mississippi teams in the final NJCAA poll are East Mississippi at No. 1, Northwest Mississippi at No. 7, Mississippi Gulf Coast at No. 12 and Copiah-Lincoln at No. 18. Holmes and East Central received votes.

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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