The win was huge for the program, considering the fact that the Hornets lost to the Okolona Cheiftains last year in the first round 7-0 in Mound Bayou. The Hornets were a No. 1 while the Cheiftains were a No. 4 seed.
This year, the Hornets (9-3) were a No. 1 seed again, while the Lions (4-8) entered Friday’s game a No. 4 seed.
JFK head football coach Sheldon Hodge said the team wasn’t going to let the game with Hamilton turn into a repeat of last season.
“I think this year the guys were a lot more focused on the ball game,” Hodge said. “Last year, we realized what kind of damage a No. 4 can do. A quality No. 4 can play with a No. 1. We may have taken Okolona somewhat for granted last year. This year, we went out and prepared and gave a good effort. As a result, we were able to capitalize on some things and pull out the win. Hamilton is a quality football program.”
The Hornets held a slim 8-3 lead at halftime, but battled back to cruise to the victory.
“I think we have a offense that doesn’t mind sharing the ball. We have three of four quality players that can get the ball in the end zone. We’ve been spreading the joy around and a lot of that is a result of our junior high program. I give a lot of credit to
coach (Randall) Kelly and coach (Marcellus) Chatman for getting those guys ready to play at the next level.”
Carnez Gant had a great night for the Hornets rushing for 114 yards with three 2-point conversions on just 10 carries and caught a 33-yard touchdown pass. Ladarius Johnson had a solid night throw the ball for JFK as he completed 4-of-8 passes for 121 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 31 yards with a touchdown and a 2-point conversion on 10 carries.
Ricky Fleming was Johnson’s primary target by catching two passes for 48 yards with a touchdown. Xavier Roberts round out all receivers with a 40-yard reception.
In the ground game, Eugene Pruitt aided the Hornets by rushing for 48 yards with a touchdown and a 2-point conversion on just five carries.
On defense, Roberts and Fleming each intercepted a pass, while Demorris Bedford, Timothy Richmond and Garriet Wilson racked up several clutch tackles.
JFK will host Calhoun City in the second round on Friday in Mound Bayou at 7 p.m.