This past weekend, the 2019 high school football season came to an end for all Jones County schools.
After this Saturday, state champions will be crowned, and it’ll be over for everyone until next August. As it does every single year, the season never seems long enough, and the offseason seems to pass by more slowly than the last 10 minutes of school.
This was my first season working as the Leader-Call’s sports editor, and I can’t even begin to describe how much fun I had covering our local teams from start to finish. It was a season to remember for many reasons. There are certain moments, however, that will come to my mind instantly each time I think about my time on local sidelines in 2019.
I figured now would be as good a time as any to take one last look at some of the moments that made the year so special.
For one, I’ll remember this being the year Northeast Jones finally climbed back onto the winning side of its cross-county rivalry with South Jones. The Tigers had lost four straight games against the Braves entering Week 4 of this season. Coming off two straight losses, many questioned whether Northeast would be up to the task. All the doubters were silenced when the Tigers dominated their way to a 48-23 victory. Senior running backs Tony Barnes and Zymarrian Ducksworth were simply unstoppable, combining for 345 rushing yards and five touchdowns. The win helped propel the Tigers to an improved overall record and an eighth playoff berth in 10 years.
And who could forget the night in Collins when Taylorsville’s junior quarterback Ty Keyes became just the fourth quarterback in MHSAA history to reach the century mark in career passing touchdowns? Keyes threw four touchdowns that night, the last of which was his 100th in just 2 1/2 years as quarterback for the Tartars. With his senior year still ahead of him, Keyes remains on pace to break the all-time state records for passing touchdowns and total yards of offense. If you’re free Saturday afternoon, go watch the young man play in this year’s Class 2A state title game and see for yourself how incredible he can be with a football in his hands.
I’ll also remember the incredible resilience shown by the South Jones Braves in their 43-40 season-finale win over Natchez. Having lost countless starters to injuries and already being mathematically eliminated from the postseason, the Braves could’ve easily just given up and delivered a half-hearted performance. On the contrary, they traveled nearly three hours to and busted their behinds to win an exciting shootout with the Bulldogs. Junior backup quarterback Reeves Crowder threw three touchdowns to go along with three Braves rushing scores to end the season with a victory the entire school can reflect on with pride.
The Laurel Tornadoes gave me several fond memories this year, but what I’ll remember most is seeing them dig down deep for a fourth-quarter comeback against Pascagoula in their final game Between the Bricks. The Panthers had been wearing Laurel’s defense thin the entire second half and owned an 18-14 lead with less than eight minutes left to play. With their backs against the ropes, the Tornadoes forced the Panthers to punt. Senior linebacker Khylin Dixon blocked the kick, scooped up the ball and took it to the house for the go-ahead score. The Tornadoes forced yet another turnovers on the Panthers’ final drive to secure the win, epitomizing the level of heart and effort the team played with throughout the season.
Lastly — and perhaps most greatly — I’ll remember 2019 as the year new life was infused into the rivalry between Wayne County and West Jones. Before their meeting in September, head coach Scott Pierson said it was honestly hard to see the matchup as a rivalry since the War Eagles had beaten them eight times in a row. That streak came to an end with a commanding 31-10 West Jones win on Sept. 13. As fate would have it, the two teams met again in the postseason. Trailing 24-7 in the second quarter, West Jones mounted an incredible comeback to win in overtime 33-30. I think it’s safe to say the matchup can once again be considered a rivalry, and all eyes will be back on the Mustangs and War Eagles the next time they meet on the gridiron.
Brad Crowe is sports editor of the Leader-Call. Email him at email@example.com.