By Robert Wilson
Photos by Chris Todd

       Dillion Johnson – who is now one of the running backs for Coach Mike Leach at Mississippi State – won three consecutive state championships for Greenville St. Joseph from 2017-2019.

       Add another state title for their family.

       Johnson’s younger brother, senior quarterback CJ Moore, led Greenville St. Joe to a 26-14 victory over defending MAIS Class 4A state champion Tri-County Academy in the 4A state championship game Thursday night before an estimated 1,500 fans at Jackson Academy in Northeast Jackson.

       The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Moore put on a show for the fans and for his older brother, who came down from Starkville to watch the championship game. Moore completed 14 of 20 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown and ran 13 times for 114 yards and two TDs.

Photo by Chris Todd

Greenville St. Joe finished 11-1 and won its 10th consecutive game. The Irish’s only loss was to MAIS Class 6A finalist Jackson Prep. The closest game during St. Joe’s winning streak was a 30-13 victory over Riverfield, La., Academy before Thursday night. St. Joe defeated Carroll Academy 48-0 and Riverfield 46-0 in its two playoff games before playing Tri-County.

Tri-County, trying to win its sixth state title in school history, finished 12-2. Tri-County coach Philip Wasson was trying for his fourth state title, winning two at Washington School (2011 and 2015) and last year.

       Johnson ran for 1,668 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior for Greenville St. Joe in 2019, including three TDs and had eight tackles and one interception in the 3A state title game. Moore finished with an outstanding senior season as well. He passed for 1,987 yards and 22 TDs and ran for 950 yards and 10 TDs. Johnson and Moore’s oldest brother, Brice Johnson, was the quarterback on the 2017 state championship team at Greenville St. Joe. After stops at Navy and Ole Miss, he is playing at the University of Houston.

Moore’s teammate, senior running back Kye Nelson, had a great game himself Thursday night with 144 yards and one TD on 16 carries, including 105 yards in the second half. Nelson – who missed last year’s loss to Tri-County in the 4A state semifinals because of an ankle injury – finished the season with 909 yards and 17 TDs.

Tri-County – which was coming off an emotional victory over previously undefeated Adams County Christian School in last week’s state semifinals – took a 6-0 lead when sophomore quarterback Bryce Warriner completed a 13-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Ty Milner with 2 minutes, 59 seconds to play in the first quarter. Moore answered with a 29-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Christian Foster and sophomore Jay Chow added the extra point to give Greenville St. Joe a 7-6 lead on the last play of the first quarter.

Moore raced 76 yards for a TD to give Greenville St. Joe a 14-6 lead with 2:57 to play in the second quarter. Tri-County answered when Warriner completed a 20-yard TD pass to Milner and senior Kamp Shepherd ran for the 2-point conversion for 14-14 tie with 59 seconds to play before halftime.

Nelson ran for a 43-yard TD to give Greenville St. Joe a 20-14 lead with 1:56 to play in the third quarter and Moore added a 15-yard TD run with 5:12 to play for the final TD.

Warriner completed 21 of 34 passes for 161 yards and two TDs. He finished the season with 2,262 yards and 30 TDs.

Photo by Chris Todd

       Tri-County senior wide receiver Walker Wasson – this week’s Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Week and son of Tri-County coach Wasson – had five catches for 62 yards. He finished the season with 45 catches for 890 yards and 10 TDs.

       “CJ is a remarkable athlete,” said Greenville St. Joe coach John Baker, who won his fourth state title in 14 seasons at St. Joe. “He has a great mix of speed and intelligence. CJ has a great grasp of the game and is going to make someone a great college player. He doesn’t care what position he plays. CJ is a gifted athlete and versatile.

       “When we went in at halftime, we told our guys we had to come out and be more physical than Tri-County. We wanted to run the football and told Kye to get ready, he was going to get it a lot. Our offensive front, led by senior right tackle Roury McCloyen (a 6-foot-3, 250-pounder who signed with Mississippi State for track and field) and junior center Tyler Montgomery (6-foot, 245), did a great job.”

       “We had a hard-fought game,” said Wasson, who has a 42-10 record, an 80.8 winning percentage, and three state championship game appearances in four seasons at Tri-County. “We had two drives in the red zone where we did not score. Kamp got hurt in the third quarter and did not return. That hurt us on offense and defense. St. Joe scored their first touchdown on fourth and 17 when the quarterback escaped and ran around in the backfield for about eight seconds, then threw it across the field for a long TD. I’m so proud of our senior leaders. They left it all on the field. My coaches did an excellent job with the game plan offensively and defensively. We will start back in the weight room after Thanksgiving and work harder to get this bad taste out of our mouths.”