By Robert Wilson
Sam Williams won’t forget his first home game as Brandon’s head football coach.
His sophomore quarterback, Landon Varnes, completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to junior Devin Thipgen with 3 seconds to play for a 31-24 victory Friday night over Clinton at Brandon.
Said Williams: “It was a big-time atmosphere, a big-time win, and something for us to really hang our hat on as we transition into a tough district schedule.”
Brandon won its first game of the season after losses to two of the best teams in Class 6A, a 24-17 loss at 2020 MHSAA 6A state runner-up Oxford in the season opener and a 42-19 loss at Madison Central, one of the favorites to win the 6A state championship. Clinton, which reached the 6A state semifinals last season, dropped to 1-2 and second loss in the final seconds, losing to Ocean Springs 45-44 in double overtime in the season opener.
Williams is in his first season at Brandon. He is in his fifth year as a head coach and has a 38-16 record. The former Northwest Rankin High and Mississippi State wide receiver led Pelahatchie to a 27-11 record and took the Chiefs to the Class 2A playoffs each season. Williams then went to Ridgeland where he led the Titans to a 10-3 record and the Class 5A semifinals behind senior quarterback Zy McDonald, the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Player of the Year.
Now, Williams faces another challenge at Brandon where he replaced Tyler Peterson, whose Bulldogs went 5-6 last season, but return 15 starters. Peterson is now the offensive line coach at Clinton.
One of those new starters is Varnes, who completed 16 of 27 passes for 251 yards for three TDs. He completed all three TDs to Thipgen, a 37 yarder in the second quarter and a 36-yarder in the third quarter. Thipgen caught five passes for 99 yards.
“Landon and Devin were great all night,” Williams said. “They were really on the same page and got a rhythm early. We were able to run the football enough success to get one on one matchups and Devin is a tough cover when we can get him isolated. Both of them have a long way to go and need to continue to progress, but I am thrilled with how they competed and battled to the bitter end. That was a really a must win game for us.”
Junior Jarvis Durr caught six passes for 83 yards and ran nine times for 50 yards and one TD and was instrumental to Brandon’s offense. Durr scored on a 20-yard run and Jalen Ballard added the extra point for a 24-24 tie with 1:21 to play.
Brandon junior linebacker B.J. Morrow made the defensive play of the game when he recovered a fumble at the Clinton 30 with 33 seconds in the game. Three plays later, Varnes connected with Thigpen for the game winner.
“It was culmination of kids being bought in and believing in our program,” Williams said. “We had two tough losses where we felt like we just couldn’t put it all together and last night we found a way to execute for four quarters. I was super of our kids for overcoming a ton of obstacles to pull out the win.”
Clinton, which led 16-7 at halftime and 24-17 after three quarters, was led by junior running back Jakobe Calvin’s three TDs (two rushing and one receiving) and junior quarterback Jordyn Battee, who completed 10 of 14 passes for 149 yards and one TD.
“I think there are three plays so far this season that has kept us from being 3-0,” Clinton coach Judd Boswell said. “I think Brandon did a great job of taking advantage of our mistakes.”