By Robert Wilson
Canton High has never won a playoff game since the MHSAA started football playoffs in the early 1980s.
Calvin Bolton, who begins his sixth season at Canton, hopes to change that this season.
Bolton led his team to a 14-12 victory over Madison County rival Velma Jackson Saturday afternoon in the season opener for both teams at Canton.
Senior linebacker Curtis Brown and his teammates tackled Velma Jackson punter Tyshun Willis for a safety with 2 minutes to play for winning points.
“Our front seven had stopped Velma Jackson to a negative rushing yards for the game, so we decided to punt the ball late in the fourth quarter instead of going for it on fourth down at the Canton 40,” Bolton said. “(Canton’s) Tamarcus Mcgee had a great punt inside the 10. We kept Velma Jackson from gaining many yards on three plays, then on the punt we got to them and got a safety. They kicked it back to us after the safety and they had only one timeout left so we can out the clock with a victory formation. It was a battle to the end. I knew it was going to a great game to finish. Both teams have families on both sides. We always have great games against Velma.”
Although they are different classes – Canton is Class 5A and Velma Jackson in Class 2A – the teams play each year. Velma Jackson leads the series 22-21-2.
“I know the history of this program,” Bolton said. “When we had two consecutive winning seasons in my second and third years (7-6 in 2018 and 7-4 in 2019), it was the first time since the 1989 and 1990 seasons.”
Bolton, a former Independence High and Mississippi Valley standout, led Canton to the playoffs in 2018, the first time the team had been since 2010. Canton is 0-6 in playoff appearances in school history.
“We plan on changing that,” Bolton said. “We can be as good as we want to be. If we are disciplined and stay focused, we can make a good run in the playoffs.”
Canton’s defensive front seven was the difference into the game. Bolton singled out senior defensive lineman Montrayvious Carter – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – along with Brown, senior defensive lineman Quanzavius Vaughn, sophomore TJ Henderson, junior Jeramiah Douglas and senior Jaylan Bridgeman having outstanding performances Saturday.
Velma Jackson took a 6-0 lead when junior quarterback Terrelle Smith completed a touchdown pass to junior Ken Young. Canton tied at 6-6 late in the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Eric Gilkey III ran for a 58-yard TD. Gilkey completed a 10-yard TD pass to senior Nicholas Davenport for a 12-6 Canton lead in the third quarter. Velma Jackson tied the game at 12-12 late in the fourth quarter when Willis had a TD run. Canton took the kickoff and drove to the Velma Jackson 40 before punting to set up the winning safety.
“This win was huge for us,” Bolton said. “We are going into this next week on a high note.”
Canton plays another Madison County rival, Class 6A Germantown, this Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Canton. Germantown defeated Class 5A Vicksburg 10-6 Friday in Vicksburg.
Meanwhile, Velma Jackson coach Bernard Euell knew his team came up short, but was pleased with his team’s performance against a much larger school.
“I was extremely proud of the way our kids competed,” said Euell, a former Jim Hill High and Mississippi State standout who begins his seventh season as Velma Jackson’s head coach. Euell has a 49-20 record, including a 12-2 season in his first year in 2016 as he took his Falcons to the Class 3A state semifinals.
“I thought our defense played extremely well. Offensively, we threw the ball very well. We didn’t run the ball as well as we would have liked, but overall I was pleased with the way my young group played. My hat goes off to Coach Bolton and his team for a hard-fought victory. Our young team will learn from this loss and get ready for another tough opponent in (Class 4A) Yazoo City this week.”
Smith passed for 212 yards and one TD. Young caught six passes for 124 yards and one TD. Willis, who played on the defensive line, had a team-high eight tackles, six for loss, four hurries, two pass breakups and one sack.