Kentrel Pruitt saw an opening and in his words late Friday night, "lots of opportunities to get in the end zone."
When overtime was set to begin, West Jones head football coach Scott Pierson called for his starters on both sides of the ball to form a huddle. Together, on the edge of the sideline, Pierson called for one guy to make a play. Pruitt was the guy.
Holding Wayne County to a field goal on the opening possession of overtime, Pruitt found an opening off the edge and galloped 10 yards from the line of scrimmage to the end zone on West Jones’ first offensive play.
“Our defense came through and held their own,” said Pruitt after the game. “All we had to do [on offense] was punch it in. I was glad to be the guy to do it.”
Pruitt’s touchdown in overtime lifted West Jones over Wayne County in Soso, 33-30.
"Everyone here got their money's worth," said Pierson. "Both teams played as hard as they could play. It came down to a couple of guys making plays.
"Coach Blackledge held that play all night. What he did was went in and over. It gave us another hat on that side of the ball, and it had Wayne County outmanned. It was unbelievable. He does a great job calling plays. It helped [Pruitt] spring it. We hadn't had much luck running the ball, and that formation twitch freed Pruitt up to find the end zone."
Late in the second quarter, West Jones trailed by 17. Pruitt cut Wayne County’s lead to 11, 24-13, with 1:13 left in the half on a 1-yard rush.
Pierson said he never doubted his team, even though they trailed by three scores in the first half.
"I know that may come across as arrogant," Pierson added. "Our guys are just so confident in themselves. At halftime, there wasn't any fire and brimstone, yelling and screaming, it was like coach, where are we at and what do we need to do and what do we need to change. And that was it. We came back out here [in the second half], and we had special guys making special plays. It's fun to coach a team that never quits and believes they're always going to win."
Wayne County built a 17-point first-half lead on the same play, three different times. War Eagle senior quarterback Zhakerreun Wesley hit senior wide receiver Brevin Gandy over the middle on three separate first-half plays for touchdowns from 50, 48, and 36 yards out.
West Jones made second-half adjustments to halt the scoring connections.
"We put a guy over the top," said Pierson. "Davion Barnes started playing over the top so we could double-cover Gandy. The problem with that is once we did that, we let Wesley and [Shadamien] Williamson run the ball because Barnes is an in-the-box player. And not to make excuses, but our best player cover guy Cedric Bender wasn't able to go tonight. We had a guy out there trying to cover their best receiver, who let's be honest is a quality receiver, but we can't change what we do. We have to plug-and-play. We can't change what we do. Once you start changing what you do, it can come around and bite you in the butt."
Barnes not only squashed the big connection that built Wayne County's first-half lead but also made plays on special teams in the second half to curry West Jones' comeback. Barnes blocked two War Eagle punt attempts that led to two Mustang offensive touchdowns and a 27-24 lead. Both scores came through the air on Alan Follis to Tajrick Randolph connections of eight and 27 yards.
"Coach told 'Scooter' and me to switch sides on special teams," said Barnes on his blocked punts. "I told Coach that I wasn't going to let him down tonight. I did my job."
"Those two blocked punts were huge," added Pierson. "We knew that as good as Wayne County was on defense that we couldn't go 80 yards and score. We needed big plays to give us short field positions."
The first score on the night, a 1-yard rush by Pruitt, happened shortly after the first big special teams play by West Jones. The Mustangs recovered a muffed punt return by Wayne County minutes into the contest.
Wayne County drove downfield in the final minutes and seconds of regulation. West Jones’ defense forced the War Eagles to settle for a short field goal in the red zone with 5.6 left. The game-tying field goal set up over time in Soso.
West Jones (13-0) will host Picayune (13-0) next Friday night in the Class 5A South State Championship. The two met last year in the same game. West Jones stunned "The Yune," 21-13, to advance to its first state title game in school history.