MOUNT PLEASANT — Coming off two impressive wins after a seasoning-opening loss at Pleasant Grove, the No. 5-ranked Paris Wildcats found themselves in a battle with a rising Mount Pleasant squad on its homecoming night, but eventually pulled away for a 30-8 win.
“It was a total team effort,” Wildcats head football coach Steven Hohenberger said. “We tell our kids who we are on offense, and it’s just a matter of pounding that sledgehammer into the concrete even if it’s not always going to be pretty. We had a couple of big passes, but we know our mindset. If we need to win 3-2, we will. The bottom line is to continue to do what we believe in.”
Paris trailed 2-0 in the first quarter after sophomore Luke Hohenberger saw the snap go over his head as the punter, which ended up as a safety for Mount Pleasant. The Tigers held a 2-0 lead well into the second quarter, until a 64-yard pass from Hohenberger to Jameon Mitchell put Paris in scoring position for the first of four touchdowns for Zy’kius Jackson. Paris took a 7-2 lead into the locker room.
Paris opened the third quarter with a field goal drive to extend the lead to 10-2. However, Mount Pleasant came back with a touchdown of its own to cut the deficit to 10-8. Paris’ defense, which was strong the entire game and season to this point, pushed the Tigers back on their two-point conversion try to hold the slim lead. Then, it was time for Jackson to shine behind his bruising offensive line.
Paris responded with a 50-yard touchdown run by Jackson on the ensuing drive to stretch the lead to 16-8. The two-point try was no good, but the Wildcats’ defense suffocated Mount Pleasant the rest of the way, and on the ensuing Tigers’ drive. Paris got the ball back, and Jackson went back to work. He broke loose again for more than 50 yards to put Paris at 1st and goal from the Mount Pleasant 6, where he ran it in on the next play to make it 23-8 after the successful PAT.
With 6:50 left in the fourth quarter, Jackson applied the dagger with a 60-yard touchdown run to put Paris ahead 30-8 after another good PAT.
“I’m really proud of our kids to go through that — we needed that,” Steven Hohenberger said. “We told them at the half we needed something like this. We didn’t play well in the first half, the defense kept us in there by making the necessary plays since we stayed on our end of the field from some missed protections. We just kept battling. You’re going to have games like that, and hats off to Mount Pleasant and how hard they played. They had two weeks to prepare, it was homecoming and their kids probably heard the talk of people saying they wouldn’t be able to play with a top-ranked team. I could not be prouder of the resiliency of our players and our coaches for making great halftime adjustments for four games in a row where we dominated in the third quarter.”
Jackson’s named was called numerous times as he finished the night with 248 yards on 20 carries for 4 touchdowns, which isn’t just a reflection of his talent, but also that of the team and its chemistry as a whole.
“It’s a combination of our preparation through the spring and summer, and just knowing continuing to hit that concrete until it busts from an offensive standpoint,” Steven Hohenberger said. “We have great players and I told the Mount Pleasant coaches that handing the ball off to 22 (Jackson) is an easy call. There are a lot of guys who set up his success, and he would tell you that. I think us continuing to stay the course and not get flustered was huge in the second half. We went up 10-2, didn’t convert, but were able to continue to score from there and kind of put it away.”
The way the defense played was equally impressive. It limited Mount Pleasant to 195 total yards, broke up seven passes and recorded one interception, courtesy of junior Bubba Gray, who added 6 tackles as well. Quin Dangerfield totaled 12 tackles and 1 tackle for a loss, while Dykalen Douglas added 13 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss and 1 sack. Ladanian Council finished with 10 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks, while Tre McCarty finished with 9 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss and 1 sack. Satchel Swain chipped in with 10 tackles, while Mitchell pitched in with 8 tackles and 2 passes broken up.
The Wildcats open up district play at 7:30 p.m. Friday at state-ranked Melissa.
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 F
Paris: 0 7 9 14 30
Mt. Pleasant: 2 0 6 0 8
Paris total yards: 376
Mt. Pleasant total yards: 195
Paris passing leaders: L. Hohenberger, 3-for-7, 90 yards
Paris rushing leaders: Z. Jackson, 20-248; D. Williams, 3-30; M. McCarty, 3-16
Paris receiving leaders: J. Mitchell, 1-64; K. Washington, 1-25; Z. Jackson, 1-1