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Running game leads Devils to second straight win

WATER VALLEY — It was easy to tell that Water Valley coach Brad Embry was excited with the Blue Devils’ 30-18 victory over North Panola on Friday.

“I am proud of our effort,” Embry said. “We just tried to play to our advantages and see what we can do.”

Water Valley improved to 4-5 and 2-1 in Region 2-3A play with North Panola falling to 3-5 and 0-3.

A solid team win was exactly what the Blue Devils needed as they recorded their second consecutive victory, a feat they had been unable to do all season.

“I am proud of our effort,” Embry said. “We did not play clean, but we played hard. We are continuing to work and get better, and I am proud of them.”

Much of the offensive success can be attributed to the improved offensive line play from Water Valley. Kirkland Horton and Taghee James mirrored each other with similar rush attempts and yards. Horton finished with 158 yards while James finished with 145.

James added three scores, all coming from runs of 15 yards or more. Horton found the end zone once on a 67-yard run after being held up and breaking multiple tackles.

Horton has taken the game into his own hands many times throughout the game by saving broken plays, turning losses into big gains and controlling the tempo of the offense.

Embry commented on Horton’s expectations for the rest of the season, saying, “He needs to continue to get healthy, get in shape and work on his conditioning. Just continuing to work and get better on offense. He missed some time, so he is still getting back into the right shape.”

Horton and wideout Jayvon Morgan have seemed to have chemistry as Morgan was targeted nearly 10 times throughout the game. Morgan only finished with three catches and 44 yards but carried a significant portion of the defensive attention from North Panola, freeing up the running game and other receivers.

While the Blue Devils deserve praise for their victory, Justin Connor of North Panola stole the show.

Connor, an Ole Miss commit, posted 293 yards on 25 carries. Connor was also the only North Panola player to score in the game.

A 60-yard run in the first quarter, a 76-yard run in the second quarter and another 60-yard run right before the end of the third quarter caught the eye of almost everyone in attendance.

Connor had 210 yards in the first half and suffered slight tweak in his hamstring, forcing him out of the game early. His impact had already been made, but the Blue Devil defense managed to shut down the rest of the Cougars and earn a big home victory.

The Blue Devils will travel to Holly Springs this Friday to take on the 2-7 Hawks.