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By DANNY P. SMITH
MABEN â€“ The East Webster Wolverines were not going to let their community down.
With a similar determination that East Webster showed in getting the football field ready for play following an April 27 tornado that damaged the campus, the Wolverines were able to defeat the visiting Vardaman Rams 13-12 Friday night in Cumberland.
It was definitely an emotional victory for East Webster and new head coach Doug Wilson.
"The kids kept playing hard," Wilson said. "The freshmen kept playing hard. Our punter saved us several times with some good athletic moves. The coaching staff did their job and everything was just clicking. Coach Kenny (Williamson) was keeping us informed and kept everything going smooth. The kids played their heart out and this community deserves it.
"(Getting the field ready) was all done in two weeks. The administration and everybody worked themselves to death and I told the kids all week that the community has worked itself to death for this game and don't let them down."
Vardaman was able to take a 12-7 lead right before halftime on a 4-yard run from its talented quarterback Cody Jenkins, but the Wolverines shut out the Rams in the second half.
East Webster forced five turnovers throughout the course of the game, including a fumble by Jenkins on the last play which was recovered by defensive end Brennan Sparks of the Wolverines.
"We've got a solid defense year in and year out so we want to continue the tradition here," Sparks said.
East Webster scored both touchdowns after getting turnovers.
In the second quarter, Sparks recovered a muffed punt and seven plays later quarterback Darius Dear had a 1-yard touchdown run at the 3:18 mark. That put the Wolverines on top 7-6.
East Webster junior Thomas Brooks intercepted Jenkins in fourth quarter and freshman fullback Monterrious Davis scored on a 6-yard run on the very next play. That gave the Wolverines the lead for good at 13-12 with 8:54 remaining in the game.
Even though Jenkins had a big game with 92 yards rushing and 149 yards passing, East Webster was able to survive.
"I give it to (Jenkins). He's very good at what he does," Sparks said, "He's an outstanding quarterback at his position.
"We just have a lot of expectations to live up to. We lost everyone from last year so we've got big shoes to fill and we're just trying to fill them."
Wilson understands how good Vardaman is and doesn't underestimate the value of a win against the Calhoun County power.
"We were pleased to get this one," Wilson said. "This is huge for these young kids. We had kids play four quarters and never knew how to do that before. We couldn't ask enough out of them."
The Wolverines weren't going to be denied especially after the tone was set when East Webster officials welcomed the community back together with a pregame ceremony.
The effort that resulted in football being played in Cumberland was appreciated by the Wolverines.
"This community did everything for us," Sparks said. "We didn't have any lights or anything and they built it all for us over the summer just so we could play football and I'm glad that they did."