LUMBERTON – There is only word to describe Lumberton’s 30-0 win over Simmons in the 1A South State championship – domination.
“Like I told the kids before the game, we did not know if we were going to play this year, so we are blessed and fortunate to be where we are,” Lumberton coach Zach Jones said. “I’m proud of this football team. We are playing our best football right now. I mean 30-0 against a really, really good Simmons team. I don’t see it coming, but our kids stepped up their play tonight. I’m proud of them, and I’m proud to be their coach.”
The Panther defense held Simmons, which scored 56 points in its win last week, to 138 yards of total offense. At the same time, the Lumberton offense’s ground game behind the legs of Robert Henry ran over Simmons’ defense and racked up 324 yards of offense.
“We did a great job of protecting the football,” Jones said. “Hats off to the offensive line. Those guys blocked their tails off tonight. We broke some good runs against a really good team.”
Within Lumberton’s first six offensive plays, Henry broke out 58 and 44-yard touchdowns to give the Panthers a 12-0 lead in the first quarter.
“We came out early and punched them in the mouth,” Henry said. “The offensive line got aggressive and got dirty. That’s what happened, and we pulled ahead. It was the same play, just different sides.”
Towards the end of the second quarter, the Panthers’ other backfield threats began to get in the mix as 15 and nine-yard runs by Trevon Jessie helped set up a 26-yard touchdown run by Shavante Toney to give Lumberton an 18-0 lead at halftime.
The Panthers sealed their win in the middle of the third quarter.
A 17-yard run by Jessie got the Panthers in the red zone. Henry cashed in on the effort with an 8-yard touchdown run.
“If there is a better football player in Mississippi, you better show him to me,” Jones said. “He leads us. He stepped up big time tonight and broke a couple of big ones early, and got us out front. He gave us confidence and got us going.
Lumberton’s defense forced a quick three and out on Simmons’ ensuing drive and forced the Blue Devils to punt deep in their own territory. Jessie capitalized on the situation and scored on a 25-yard punt return to give the Panthers the 30-0 lead.
Henry finished the game with 176 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries, while Jessie totaled 100 yards on 19 carries.
Defensively, the Panthers held Simmons’ top two rushers to a combined 96 yards on 26 carries while also forcing a turnover. The Blue Devil passing game was also held to 4 of 12 and 23 yards.
“I think we imposed our will tonight,” Jones said. “They got some hits tonight, really got after it, and kind of set the tone.
“A shutout against that bunch that scored 56 last week. I can’t say enough about (defensive coordinator Jonathan Ladner) and the job he does. I tell everybody all the time that we are co-head coaches around here. He does a great job. We wouldn’t be right here without him.”
Lumberton makes its second consecutive appearance in the 1A championship game and will face Biggersville, which defeated Nanih Waiya 26-0.
“It’s the same message we have preached all year; we are going to take care of us and are going to work hard,” Jones said. “We are going to go to work on Monday for whoever it is and plan on taking care of the Lumberton Panthers. When we walked out of (last year’s state championship game), our goal was to get back and win it. By God, that’s what it is.”
The 1A State Championship game will be played at 3 p.m. on Friday at MS Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson.