HATTIESBURG — This was Class 2A football, the second smallest classification in Mississippi. Often you see under-sized guys, who would be walking the halls at 5A and 6A schools, playing key roles at this level.
So here were the Scott Central Rebels, lining up with Hydee Barlow, 6-feet-1 and 272 pounds, at one tailback. The other tailback was 220-pound Navontegue Strong, whose name fits his physique. Occasionally, Jabrelynn Vivians, who weighs only 210 pounds, would spell one of them. Another Vivians at Scott Central, you ask? We’ll get to that.
OK, so the starting quarterback was Treyon Wash, a 10th grade 150-pounder, but he could fly. And they all ran behind sturdy linemen, including Carson Williams, who stands 6 feet, 5 inches, weighs 305 pounds and looks larger.
“Yeah, we got some big, strong kids,” Scott Central coach Devin Cooper said. “We knew coming into this season we were going to be a ground and pound team. People talk about our defense, but our offense has gotten better every week. We can wear on you.”
Boy, can they. Boy, did they. The Rebels finished a 15-1 State Championship season Saturday afternoon with a pulverizing 21-7 victory over game, but out-manned Taylorsville before a crowd of 5,304 at The Rock. “Ground and pound” is an apt description. The Rebels ran for 323 yards on 60 carries, many of them that ended with Barlow carrying a player or three and dragging another one.
Barlow, who looks like a pulling guard, says he did play guard as a seventh and eighth grader. “But I only weighed about 175 back then,” he said. “I’ve put on a bunch of weight since then.”
So, naturally, he was moved to running back. Don’t let his girth fool you. He is as nimble a 272-pounder as you’ll find. He jukes some. He leapt over a couple of would-be tacklers who went low on him because, well, because who would want to hit him high?
“I’m athletic,” Barlow said. “I play basketball, too. I’ve always had good feet. I’m hard to take down. I run physical.”
No brag, just fact.
Barlow ran for 102 yards on 15 carries. Wash ran for 101 on 19. Strong ran for 56 on 10. Vivians, who doubles as a defensive tackle as a sophomore, ran for 26 on five.
Ah, yes, Vivians. You may remember his older sister, Victoria, one of the most celebrated Mississippi athletes of the 21st century, who led Scott Central to state championship in basketball before moving to Mississippi State and then the WNBA. She’s playing professional basketball these days in Israel. Asked when his sister would learn of his first state championship, young Jabrelynn Vivians smiled, “Oh, I’m sure she already knows. I’m betting she watched it on her computer.”
If so, she saw her alma mater fall behind 7-0 early then just grind, grind, grind, scoring nine points in the second quarter, six more in the third and six more in the fourth.
It must be pointed out Taylorsville played without injured quarterback Ty Keyes, the passing whiz, who led the Tartars to a state championship last year as a ninth grader. Carson Evans, a ninth grader who normally plays tight end, moved to quarterback and played as well as could be expected given the situation.
“He played pretty well, maybe tried to force a ball or two in there late when we were two touchdowns behind and running out of time,” Mitch Evans, the Taylorsville coach, said. “The thing is we couldn’t run the ball at all and we couldn’t get off the field on defense. We knew what they were going to do coming in and they did it. We played hard, we just couldn’t stop them.”
Taylorsville, 15-1, will return. Keyes will be back as a sophomore. Carson Evans will move back to tight end and linebacker. The Tartars will return a slew of players.
Scott Central has some outstanding young players, as well. This wasn’t necessarily the last time we will see this matchup in Class 2A.