COLUMBUS – Let's go ahead and call it an historic night for the West Oktibbeha High School football program.
When Timberwolves head coach Adam Lowery points to a turning point moment for his program it may be the Friday night his squad dominated a second half and defeated a Class 2A school by 17 points.
The speed advantage by West Oktibbeha's skill position players and five turnovers by West Lowndes (0-1) led to a dominating 31-14 victory for the road Timberwolves.
"I had to teach these boys how to believe in something bigger than yourself and when the guy looking across from you is bigger than you," West Oktibbeha head coach Adam Lowery said. "I believe if you allow a defense to attack you, then they might as well be over here calling the plays for you."
West Oktibbeha's pass-happy spread offense led to sophomore Von Smith completing 14-of-33 passes for 156 yards. Smith's biggest play of the night came on a 12-yard touchdown pass to junior Dwight Quinn that capped an eight-play drive that not only started the second half but gave West Oktibbeha (1-0) its first lead of the game.
"I like the spread because honestly it's meant just for this team," Smith said. "We've got the receivers that can catch the ball which is great because I'm still developing as a quarterback."
In a game that was halted for consistent penalties and multiple West Lowndes players going down with cramps, West Oktibbeha defense held the host Panthers scoreless in the fourth quarter to complete a 41-point turnaround from last year's 30-6 West Lowndes victory.
"A lot of the what you saw tonight was experience and perseverance by a group of young men," Lowery said.
The only bright spot for the West Lowndes was the performance by junior tailback Antonio Wilson. While Panthers head coach Bobby Berry shuffled between two quarterbacks that seemed unable to consistently handle the snap from center, the 5-foot-10, 165-pound back rushed the ball for 198 yards on 19 carries but was held in check for only 28 second-half yards after having to be helped off the field early in the third quarter.
"Tonight was a lot of talk and no action," Berry said. "The conditioning was my fault because they got a lot less people and they didn't cramp up."
After West Lowndes junior Gerald Sanders scored on a 1-yard option carry to give his team a 14-12 lead, Quinn silenced the home crowd in a hurry seconds later. On the ensuing kickoff, Quinn raced 80 yards untouched down the sideline to the end zone to give West Oktibbeha a lead that would stand.
Wolverines senior Josh Poe played a key role on both sides of the ball as he scored two rushing touchdowns Friday night and nearly found the end zone for the third time after picking off a Jamarquis Humphries pass in the fourth quarter while nothing in front of him but green grass. However the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder was knocked out of bounds at the 3-yard-line.
West Oktibbeha sophomore running back Tiberious Lampkin punched in the game's final score on the next play for his first touchdown of the night.
The victory marked Lowrey's first ever triumph on opening night since taking over the West Oktibbeha program.
"When you squeeze a good kid, good will come out," Lowery said. "That's why I squeeze them so hard and they want to be successful."
The Wolverines will be on the road again next Friday night when they travel to East Webster in a battle local teams that currently stand at 1-0.