For the past several years, the Wildcats' football program has enjoyed great success in 4A Region 3 play by winning the region four out of the last five years and when the young men took Parks Field Friday night inside Mickey Sellers Stadium in Cleveland, they were in control of their own destiny.
Riding a four game winning streak, including three lopsided district wins, where the Wildcats' offense outscored their opponents 185-65, coupled with Yazoo County's surprising loss at the hands of Humphreys County last week, it is not unusual for a sense of complacency to set in.
However, complacency is a four-letter word to a football coach coming into the final weeks of the season.
"I have been telling you guys all week that Yazoo County was a better football team than Humphreys County," Causey said as he addressed his team at mid-field after the loss. "We didn't come to play tonight. We lost our focus and if we are going to be a success we have to find and maintain that focus."
The evening started off well enough with the Wildcats taking the early 7-0 lead after senior all-purpose player Marshall Boggs, who took the snap from center, found a streaking Di'Traeyvious Russell over the middle for the score with 1:48 to play in the first quarter.
Yazoo County would answer, and do so quickly, as Panthers' senior athlete Jaylin Mosley fielded the ensuing kickoff around his own 25-yard line and, in a cloud of dust, outran the Wildcats' kick-off coverage team 75-yards for the score. The PAT kicked sailed wide, and CHS held tightly to the 7-6 lead.
However, the remainder of the first half belonged much to Yazoo County and their sophomore quarterback, Michael Collum.
Collum, who terrorized the Wildcat defense outside the tackles, found a wide-open receiver in senior running back Justin Henderson, despite a strong rush from the Wildcats' defense, for a 13-yard score with 6:08 to play in the half. The 2-point conversion failed but the Panthers took the lead 12-7.
The Wildcat offense would mount an impressive drive on their following possession only to come up empty when senior kicker Nixon Mata missed a 36-yard field goal attempt with 1:55 to play in the first half.
Collum once again took over and controlled his team's tempo by mixing in a plethora of formations, which kept the Wildcats' defense guessing.
Mounting a 50-yard drive from his own 26-yard line, Collum ended the first half with his foot by a kicking a 42-yard field goal as time expired. Going into the half, Yazoo County looked impressive with the 15-7 lead.
Yazoo County's momentum would continue into the early moments of the second half.
After calling for a fair catch at their own 33-yard line, the Panthers’ offense mounted a 13-play drive that culminated with a six-yard touchdown run by senior speedster Gerald Lampkin. Collum added the PAT, and Yazoo County commanded a 22-7 lead with 6:26 to play in the third.
After the ensuing kickoff, Wildcats' senior fullback Trace Bray took the handoff from quarterback Vaughnte Dorsey and bulled forward for a 35-yard gain. Two plays later from the Yazoo County 19, Dorsey faked a handoff to Bray and ran the keeper off the left tackle. Fighting hard for yardage, Dorsey made a spin move inside the Panthers' 10-yard line and the ball was stripped loose.
Henderson, playing linebacker for the Panthers, scooped it up and hauled it all the way down to the CHS 29-yard line. The Panthers' offense struggled, mainly because of the Wildcats' linebacking core flanked by Boggs and junior Dillion Norwood.
Yazoo County struck again with 9:51 to play in the game when Collum took a snap on what appeared to be a busted play. However, the sophomore re-evaluated the field and did the work himself with a 38-yard touchdown run on a keeper sweep left. Jason Young got a hand on the PAT knocking it just off course, but Yazoo County had mantled a commanding 28-7 lead.
But the Wildcats would not go quietly.
After fumbling the kickoff, Russell found the ball and scrambled for an 85-yard return to the Panthers' 5-yard line where Boggs took over under center. On the very next play, Boggs' called his own number and took the snap off the right tackle to the end zone. Mata missed the PAT, but the Wildcats' had new life trailing only 28-13 with 9:28 to play.
On the ensuing kickoff, Mata placed a perfect pooch kick that was recovered by the Wildcats' Earnest Butler at the Panthers' 21-yard line.
Boggs would once again take over the Wildcats' offense and show why he was chosen as the team's field general.
Facing a fourth-and-four from the Panthers' 14-yard line, Boggs took the shotgun snap and made one of his more incredible runs of the season. Throwing his team on his shoulders, Boggs powered up the middle, ran over a number of Panther defenders and dove for the goal line with a defender on his back. The nose of the ball just crossed the chalked line and the men in stripes signaled the score.
Boggs, however, was not finished.
Needing the 2-point conversion to give them a chance, the Wildcats' coaching staff called his number. Boggs would go on to take the shotgun snap and find a hole on the right side of the line for the conversion. With 7:28 to play in the game, CHS was alive trailing only 28-21.
The Panthers’ offense took over and controlled the clock before turning the ball over on downs with 1:57 to play in the game on the CHS 23-yard line.
Boggs lined up under center and threw a quick fade, which came out of the senior's hand wrong, and was picked off by Panthers' defensive back Antarious Moorhead.
Collum would come in and take the knee and the Wildcats came up just short.
Boggs rushed for 47 yards with two touchdowns on 10 carries and completed 1-of-3 passes for a TD and an interceptions to lead the Wildcats’ offense. Bray rushed for 60 yards on six carries to aid Cleveland’s ground attack, followed by Jason Young with 40 rushing yards on seven carries. Young also caught two passes for 15 yards, while Russell caught a 21-yard TD pass to round out the Wildcats’ offense.
With the win, Yazoo County (8-2, 3-1 reg.) moved into a three-way tie with Cleveland High (7-3, 3-1 reg.) and Greenwood High (5-4, 3-1 reg.) for first place in the division.
Coming up this week, Cleveland will go on the road to Greenwood controlling its own destiny. Yazoo County will once again be on the road traveling to Indianola-Gentry. Both games will have ramifications on the playoff picture and are set to kickoff at 7 p.m.