VIDEO — War Eagles win State Title
State Championship Game highlights, interviews, celebrations and more.
War Eagles hold off Chargers to earn 5A State Title
(Editor's Note: Be sure and pick up a copy of Thursday's Wayne County News, as there will be a special commemorative State Championship Section with plenty of stories, photos and other items.)
By Paul Keane
OXFORD — Wayne County High School players, as they entered the field here at Vaught-Hemingway Field Saturday night, walked past the memorial monument for Chucky Mullins which carried the saying "Never Quit."
The War Eagles definitely didn't quit against Oxford High School, battling the Chargers tooth and nail and finally coming away with a late lead before stopping the OHS potent offense at the WCHS 1-yard line to take a 45-41 victory in the Class 5A State Championship Game.
The title is the fourth in school history for the War Eagles (12-3), but none of them were as thrilling and nail-biting at Saturday night's crown.
"This team showed great relisience, perseverance and any other adjective for not quitting that you can find," Head Coach Todd Mangum said. "At halftime, we talked about finishing, and they finished right at the 1-yard line. It doesn't get much closer than that for not quitting.
"But we've been in games like this before this year. I think back to the Meridian game where we won it late and a lot of other close games were were involved in this season. We knew we had to do what we do, which is play great defense. They are a great offensive team, but we play pretty good defense on our end."
Mangum said the goal-line stand — where ZaByron Jackson tackled Ole Miss commit D.K. Metcalf just inches from a game-winning touchdown — epitomizes the attitude and work ethic of this year's team.
"This entire game epitomizes the perseverance and resiliency of this team," Mangum said. "When we scored late in the game, I wondered if we had scored too quickly because of the type of offense they had. But it's a game of inches, and if you know these kids you know they don't quit.
"I'm just proud for our coaches, our players and our fans to bring home this state championship for all of them."
The game vacillated from offensive shootout to defensive battle, as the two squads combined for 45 points in the first quarter and then didn't score a single point in the second quarter before combining for three touchdowns in both the third and quarter periods.
The War Eagles took the opening kickoff and quickly drove 76 yards in three plays, with Reggie Stewart hitting Freddy Jordan, Jr., with a pass over the middle, with the senior running back splitting the defense and racing 74 yards for the score. The Brett Reynolds kick opened up a 7-0 lead with 10:41 left in the opening stanza.
WCHS held on the ensuing series, holding the Chargers to minus-12 yards on three snaps before forcing a punt. An interception two plays later, though, allowed the Chargers to take over at the WCHS 39-yard line. Four plays later, Oxford was in the end zone off a 4-yard run from Hiram Wadlington, with Connel Yoste kick knotting things up at 7-7 with 8:12 left in the first period of play.
The War Eagles responded with a nine-play, 44-yard drive that was capped off by a 29-yard field goal from Reynolds to make it 10-7 with 6:15 left. It took the Chargers only one play — a 71-yard pass from Jack Abraham to D.K. Metcalf — to answer, giving the Chargers a 14-10 with 5:58 left.
A controversial interception at the OHS 2-yard line ended a WCHS scoring threat, and the quick-strike offense of OHS struck again, with Abraham hitting Wadlington on a 98-yard touchdown pass that opened up a 21-10 lead with 4:24 left in the quarter.
The War Eagles answered that with a five-play, 76-yard drive that was capped off when Chris Cooley scored on a 20-yard run, with the Reynolds extra point making it 21-17 with 2:57 left in the period.
The Chargers answered right back, though, marching 64 yards in 10 plays before Josh Patton scored on a 2-yard run to open up a 28-17 lead with 10 ticks left on the first quarter clock.
As explosive as the first quarter was, the second quarter quickly turned into a defensive standoff. WCHS marched down to the 22-yard line of Oxford before things stalled out, and Oxford made it to the WCHS 23-yard line before that drive stalled. A pair of drives that ended in punts brought the first half to an end.
The Chargers took the the second-half kickoff and methodically marched down to the WCHS 19 before DeAndre Gandy picked off a pass to thwart the threat. The two teams then traded punts before the War Eagles were able to put some points on the board.
Taking over at their own 15-yard line, the War Eagles marched 85 yards in six plays, with Jordan, Jr., capping things off by catching a 27-yard pass from Stewart. The Reynolds kick narrowed the deficit to 28-24 with 5:01 left in the period.
It took the Chargers only three plays to extend the lead back to double digits, with Wadlington hauling in a 61-yard pass from Abraham to make it 35-24 with 4:35 left.
WCHS answered right back, though, marching 70 yards in 13 plays before Cooley scored on a 5-yard run to make it 35-331 with 54 seconds left in the third quarter.
On the ensuing series, Tyler Hopkins tackled Wadlington and forced a fumble, with fellow linebacker Hunter James recovering it at the OHS 41-yard line. The offense couldn't take advantage of the turnover and appeared to pin the Chargers in their own territory with a 25-yard punt down to the OHS 24-yard line.
It took the Chargers eight plays before Metcalf caught a 14-yard pass from Abraham to make it 41-31 after the extra point kick failed. The drive was kept alive by a controversial call where the side judge on the far side of the field originally said that ZaByron Jackson recovered a fumble inside the 10-yard line. After conferring, though, the officials overturned the call despite WCHS fans chanting "replay," wanting to see the play on the Jumbo Tron at the stadium. The ruling allowed the Chargers to keep the drive alive at the WCHS 7 and, two plays later, Metcalf scored.
The decision and the score only fired up the War Eagles, who then scored twice in the last half of the period before making the big defensive stand.
It took the War Eagles only six plays after the Oxford score before answering. The drive was capped off when Stewart hit Jordan, Jr., with a 39-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit down to 41-38 with 6:10 left.
The defense held and forced a punt, allowing the offense to take over at its own 22-yard line. Seven plays later, on a third-and-3, Stewart hit defensive end Benito Jones (lined up as a tight end) and the big man rambled into the end zone with the touchdown. The Reynolds extra point made it 45-41 with 1:17 remaining.
That proved to be enough time for the Chargers to give their fans some last-second thrills while making the hearts of War Eagles fans skip a beat or two.
Abraham moved his team down to the 10-yard line with scant seconds left. Mangum used his last timeout with 11 seconds left, then Abraham raced 9 yards down to the WCHS 1-yard line. On third-and-goal with four seconds remaining, Abraham ran a toss sweep to Metcalf, who was stopped by Jackson as time expired.
WCHS 45, OXFORD 41
SCORE BY QUARTERS
OHS 28 0 7 6 — 41
WCHS 17 0 14 14 — 45
WCHS — 10:41, Freddy Jordan, Jr., 74-yard pass from Reggie Stewart. Brett Reynolds kick.
OHS — 8:12, Hiram Wadlington 4-yard run. Connel Yoste Kick.
WCHS — 6:15, Reynolds 29-yard field goal.
OHS — 5:58, D.K. Metcalf 71-yard pass from Jack Abraham. Yoste kick.
OHS — 4:24, Wadlington 98-yard pass from Abraham. Yoste kick.
WCHS — 2:57, Chris Cooley 20-yard run. Reynolds kick.
OHS — 0:10, Josh Patton 2-yard run. Yoste kick.
WCHS — 5:01, Jordan, Jr., 27-yard pass from Stewart. Reynolds kick.
OHS — 4:35, Wadlington 61-yard pass from Abraham. Yoste kick.
WCHS — 0:54, Cooley 5-yard run. Reynolds kick.
OHS — 8:33, Metcalf 14-yard pass from Abraham. Kick failed.
WCHS — 6:10, Jordan, Jr., 39-yard pass from Stewart. Reynolds kick.
WCHS — 1:17, Benito Jones 9-yard pass from Stewart. Reynolds kick.
FIRST DOWNS: WCHS 23, OHS 28
RUSHES-YARDS: WCHS 48-288, OHS 28-66
PASSES: WCHS 13-24-2, OHS 35-52-1
PASSING YARDS: WCHS 269, OHS 560
FUMBLES-LOST: WCHS 1-0, OHS 5-1
PENALTIES-YARDS: WCHS 5-35, OHS 6-30
PUNTS-AVERAGE: WCHS 3-30.3, OHS 4-31.3
RETURN YARDS: WCHS 32, OHS 121
THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: WCHS 10-of-15, OHS 7-of-18
FOURTH DOWN CONVERSIONS: WCHS 1-of-2, OHS 2-of-4
TIME OF POSSESSION: WCHS 22:18, OHS 25:42
Freddy Jordan, Jr., 31-190, Chris Cooley 8-46, Reggie Stewart 6-39, Schdarius Chambers 2-9, ZaByron Jackson 1-4.
Reggie Stewart 13-24-2 269 yards.
Freddy Jordan, Jr., 3-140, ReMeik Wallace 6-88, Direkas Harris 1-21, Benito Jones 1-9, Jonathan McDougle 1-5.
TyRee Evans 11, Tyler Hopkins 10, Denzel Bonner 9, DeAndre Gandy 8, ZaByron Jackson 7, Benito Jones 7, Roy Arrington 7, Hunter James 4, C.J. Chambers 4, Deon Smith 4, JaMarcus Fisher 4, Quindarius Bivens 3, Kendrick Fuqua 3, Devin Washam 3, Clifton Jordan 2, Malik Jordan 1, Jamarius Hundley 1, Xavier Lampley 1.
DeAndre Gandy 1, Benito Jones 1, TyRee Evans 1.
Tyler Hopkins 2, Hunter James 2, Benito Jones 1, TyRee Evans 1.
Tyler Hopkins 1, TyRee Evans 1.
Hunter James 1.
DeAndre Gandy 1.
Deon Smith 2, Xavier Lampley 2, JaMarcus Fisher 1, Roy Arrington 1, Hunter James 1, TyRee Evans 1.