E.A. Sports Today

Breaking through

Special teams play helps White Plains get first win for new coach, keep Pleasant Valley winless

White Plains' Walker Surrett (68) wraps up Pleasant Valley's Ethan Borders in the first half of their game Friday night. On the cover, two teams looking for their first victories of the season are poised for the snap. (Photos by Prime Time Prepz/www.primetimeprepz.com)

White Plains’ Walker Surrett (68) wraps up Pleasant Valley’s Ethan Borders in the first half of their game Friday night. On the cover, two teams looking for their first victories of the season are poised for the snap. (Photos by Prime Time Prepz/www.primetimeprepz.com)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — There are a lot of things Chris White will remember fondly about his first win as a head coach, but the thing he’ll remember most is the way his team rose to the challenge in the second half.

In a game in which one of the new head coaches on the field was going to get his first win, White’s White Plains Wildcats topped Pleasant Valley 18-6 Friday night.

“Great win for the team, it was a whole team win,” White said immediately after the game. “It’s not about me, all about the team.

“What I’ll remember most is how hard our guys had to fight the first half and great adjustments and that they played their butts off the second half.”

Both teams went into the game with head coaches looking for their first wins with their new teams. White was hired to replace Larry Strain at White Plains and Jonathan Nix came over from Ragland to take over for Jeff Davis at Pleasant Valley.

Both had lost their first four games by sizeable margins and White, for one, frankly wondered how it would affect his players’ psyche if the Wildcats didn’t get Friday’s game.

“I’m just excited how they came out and played,” White said. “It is so easy going 0-4 to lay down and quit. It’s the first win, yeah, as a head coach, but I’m looking at it as the first win hoping to spin off the rest of the season.”

Despite the teams’ overall records, it was a highly competitive game.

Among the more memorable points for White Plains was the way senior first-time football player Gage Whiteside set up the Wildcats’ first two touchdowns with big special teams returns and the way sophomore Jamond Jackson carried the offense on his back in the second half.

Whiteside, a former soccer player who started football too late to play last year, returned the second-half kickoff 43 yards to give the Wildcats a short field for Jackson’s game-tying touchdown. Then he returned a PV punt 41 yards to the 12 setting up quarterback Brycen Longley’s go-ahead score. He broke two tackles at the 35 to make it happen.

“I just knew my team needed a big spark, and we couldn’t get anything going on offense until we get a big return,” Whiteside said. “That’s basically how we won the B.B. Comer game (in the jamboree), the only game we’ve won so far. So I knew we needed a good kick return to get us started and I just couldn’t stop.”

Jackson ran for 71 hard-earned yards in the game, but had 48 yards on 15 carries in the second half. The 15 rushes represented half the Wildcats’ snaps in the half.

“I don’t know what to say,” Jackson said. “I was just running my hardest to do the best I can do.”

The tight game wasn’t without a bit of controversy. There were some anxious moments in the fourth quarter when the officials huddled to discuss a punt that appeared to be fumbled into the end zone and recovered by PV’s Caden Turner for a game-tying touchdown.

The play ultimately was ruled a muff and a touchback, giving White Plains possession at the 20. The Wildcats took the break and drove for the insurance score, a 17-yard pass from Longley to Macey Carr with 2:19 to play.

Nix received conflicting explanations of the play before the officials ruled the touchback with the official closest to the play. White Plains had the rulebook on the sideline and consulted it during the timeout White called seeking an explanation.

White Plains assistant coach Chris Randall remembered a similar circumstance in an Anniston-Oxford game in the late 80s where the call was made an the official later apologized to Anniston for making the wrong call.

Nix said that play “stung” but more hurtful was the Raiders not establishing their offense in the third quarter while White Plains — after Whiteside’s two big returns — scored touchdowns to erase a 6-0 halftime deficit.

The Raiders were held to 46 yards and one first down in the second half, while White Plains had 135 net yards and all three of its touchdowns.

“A lot of credit goes to them for coming out rejuvenated in the third quarter,” Nix said.

While the Raiders left the field still in search of their first victory, Nix said he is seeing advancement.

“I’m seeing it in the weight room and I’m seeing it at practice, but there are so many kids in new spots who’ve never been in those spots they’re in and they’re having to grow up fast,” Nix said. “The future is bright because we have so many young kids out there.

“It’s like I was telling them: You don’t develop this in one year. You’ve got to believe in that weight room. A lot of times I’m seeing the progress maybe they had in the offseason wasn’t enough progress and we’re reaping what we sew, so you’ve got to make sure as soon as the season’s over that kid’s in there in the offseason.

“Every good team I’ve been on and coached has been a believer in that weight room in the offseason and you can see right now it’s paying off but it’s not paying off as fast as we’d like.”


White Plains 0 0 12 6 — 18
Pleasant Valley 6 0 0 0 — 6

PV – Elijah Borders 4 run (kick failed), 8:49 1Q
WP – Jamond Jackson 2 run (run failed), 9:16 3Q
WP – Brycen Longley 1 run (run failed), 5:30 3Q
WP – Macey Carr 17 pass from Longley (run failed), 2:19 4Q

Team Stats WP PV
First downs 9 10
Rushes-yds 41-126 39-130
C-A-I 6-11-0 5-19-0
Passing yds 86 62
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Punts-avg 2-34.5 3-28.3
Penalties-yds 9-95 10-100

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