By Richard Sharp
Lake Area Sports
LEPANTO-Reeling off a historic playoff victory over Murfreesboro in front of their home crowd, the Quitman Bulldogs traveled northeast to battle a very talented and quick East Poinsett Warrior team, who would go on to claim a 56-29 victory over Quitman and bring their season to a close in the second round.
With the contest scoreless midway through the opening session of play, EPC struck first with a pick six from sophomore Carter Smith that was returned 44 yards to make it 6-0 after a failed two-point conversion try. The guests would answer right back with their first lead of the contest after junior quarterback William Litton found Trevor Locke for a 46-yard touchdown pass, going up 7-6 on senior Erin Mathes’ extra point kick with 4:15 to go in the first quarter.
The home team would reclaim the lead after Smith fired a 30-yard strike to senior Deuce Moore for a TD, clipping on a two-pointer for a 14-7 advantage. Quitman would tie the affair after Litton threaded the needle to Mathes for a 46-yard touchdown with 1:24 left.
Litton added to his stat line after the Bulldog defense forced a three and out, unleashing a 75-yard pass to Mathes, who took it to the house to swing the momentum in favor of Quitman with the second session coming up.
On the ensuing Warrior drive, senior Hunter Rains muscled his way past defenders to cross the plain for a touchdown, coming up short on another two-point try, but would come out with a score on their next offensive possession after Rains came through with a touchdown on a 61-yard quarterback keep play, bulldozing through multiple Bulldogs on his journey to six. Freshman Dennis Gaines used his speed to slice through for a two-pointer, taking a 28-21 lead into the halftime intermission.
Senior Austin Baker kicked off the second half with a huge 60-yard kickoff return to give EPC excellent field possession at the 21-yard line, adding on to their lead just moments later after Raines rushed his way in for another TD, being complimented by a Smith two-point run to swell the lead to 36-21.
The Warriors would get the football right back after Smith picked off another Litton pass for his second interception, opening the door for the host to add on to their onslaught after Rains would complete two passes for points, a touchdown pass to junior Peyton Edings for six and one to Moore for two.
Litton would end the Bulldogs’ drought with a quarterback keep touchdown, hooking up with Mathes for an additional two to cut it to 44-29, but it would be the final score for Quitman as EPC would close out the game with a 12-0 run the rest of the way to seal the victory by a 56-29 tally.
The Bulldogs, who will close their campaign out with a 6-6 mark, got 455 total yards and four touchdowns from Litton, rushing 30 times for 33 yards and one TD and completing 26 of 48 pass attempts for 422 yards and three touchdowns. Mathes hauled in eight receptions for 181 yards and two touchdowns, getting help from Locke’s 154 receiving yards and touchdown. Hensley added on 16 rushing yards and a touchdown as well.
A quartet of Quitman defenders collected double-digit tackles, including Litton (12), senior Jett Silor (12), freshman Keylan Like (11) and Hensley (10), while Litton and junior Jaden Vallance each had two tackles for losses.
With the Class of 2020 leaving their mark as the winningest class in program history, the Bulldogs will continue to build as the Jr. Bulldogs hauled in a conference title this season and will add pieces from that squad to the varsity team, hoping to continue to add on to the history that was made in this campaign, a campaign that included a third-place finish in a tough 2A-4 league as well as hosting a playoff game and winning a playoff game for the first time as well.