Photo by Bobby McDuffie

By Robert Wilson

       West Jones High did what only two MHSAA football teams had ever done to Jackson Prep: beat the Patriots in the first meeting against the MAIS perineal powerhouse. And the Mustangs also did to Prep what no team had done in 20 years.

       West Jones, with a standout defensive front and speedy linebackers and defensive backs, limited Prep to 135 total yards – a negative 61 rushing yards – to end Prep’s 12-game winning streak and held Prep to the least number of points since 2004 with a 21-6 victory in an outstanding defensive battle between two undefeated teams in different associations at West Jones in Soso in Jones County.

       MHSAA Class 6A West Jones – ranked No. 11 in Mississippi by Maxpreps – improved to 6-0 and won in its first football meeting with a MAIS school. Defending MAIS Class 6A state champion Prep – ranked No. 8 in Mississippi by MaxPreps – dropped to 6-1.

       Prep had a 21-10 record against MHSAA football games, including a 9-2 mark when it played a team for the first time. Only George County in 2001 and Oxford in 2013 had beaten Prep in first meetings.

West Jones’ defense was stingy, limited Prep to only two Eli Adams field goals. The last time Prep scored that few points was in 2004 when Jackson Academy defeated Prep 21-0 in the state championship game. The Patriots hadn’t been held out of the end zone in a game since a 9-0 win over Pearl in 2012.

Prep – who was playing without injured senior running back Lake Womack (a team-high 313 yards and seven TDs this season) – came into the game averaging 39 points per game and had scored 42 or more points in four of its six games and was averaging 374.2 yards per game. But that all changed against West Jones.

West Jones scored all the points it needed on the first drive of the game. The Mustangs marched 80 yards and freshman quarterback Tootie Lindsey – who gained a game-high 102 yards on 13 carries – scored on a 43-yard run for a 7-0 lead with nine minutes, 27 seconds to play in the first quarter.

       A high snap over Jackson Prep punter Eli Adams’ head went into the end zone and he kicked it out of the back of end zone for an intentionally safety for a 9-0 West Jones lead with 2:29 to go in the first quarter.

       Adams hit a 25-yard field goal for Prep’s first points to cut the lead to 9-3 with 2:45 before halftime.

       Prep senior quarterback Billy Puckett – who passed for 196 yards – completed a 55-yard pass to senior wide receiver Hayden Frazure to the West Jones 10, but West Jones didn’t let Prep get into the end zone and Adams kicked a 30-yard field goal to cut the lead to 9-6 with 19 seconds to play before halftime.

       West Jones senior running back Rase Jones scored on a 25-yard run for a 15-6 West Jones lead with 5:17 to play in the third quarter and added a 38-yard TD run for a 21-6 lead with 2:12 to play in the game.

       “Our defense played well,” said Prep coach Doug Goodwin, who is in his second season at Prep after winning 234 games in Alabama and is a member of the Alabama Coaches Hall of Fame. “(Senior defensive tackle) Andy Brown, (senior defensive back) Matthew Muhrle, (junior defensive back) Major Quin, and (senior linebacker) Thomas Cross played well. Eli Adams did a good job punting, place kicking and kicking off. Our offense didn’t play well at all. We didn’t protect well. We dropped passes and we didn’t get the ball to some open receivers at times. West Jones has a great team. They played very well.”

       West Jones was led on defense by senior defensive end Isaiah “Lunchmeat” Lindsey, who did his share of eating up Prep Friday. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lindsey gave Prep trouble all night and had four of the seven sacks on Puckett.

       West Jones has had one of the best football programs in Mississippi for decades. West Jones lost to eventual Class 5A state champion Picayune in the second round of the playoffs last season, the last game for highly successful coaching career of Scott Pierson, who retired after 21 seasons as West Jones head coach. Pierson had a 195-65 record, an excellent winning percentage of 75 percent, and won one state title in 2020, one runner-up finish in 2018 and reached the semifinals six other seasons.

        Former South Jones head coach and Oak Grove offensive coordinator Cory Reynolds took over for Pierson this season.

       “It was an exciting and fun night here with homecoming going on,” Reynolds said. “Playing against a well coached team that plays really hard made it the place to be on Friday night. Our defense once again played lights out only giving up two field goals on the night. Offensively, we played good at times but penalties hurt us really bad on several drives. Jackson Prep gave us fits defensively that caused us to have those penalties. Coach Goodwin and his staff had their team ready to play. It was hard fought and very physical for both teams.”