Winona Christian football Coach Junior Graham knew his team was going into last week’s game with French Camp blind since the Panthers didn’t play any pre-season games.
That was a blessing and a curse for the Stars.
Winona Christian overcame a 10-point halftime deficit and scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to take a 34-24 win over homesteading French Camp on Friday night.
The Stars used a balanced offensive attack to pull away from the Panthers as the Stars rushed for 199 yards and threw for 225 for 424 yards of total offense.
“We were down 10 at halftime but we weren’t panicked,” Graham said. “Honestly, it was one of the best halftimes I have been a part of. It was a total team effort at halftime. The kids were engaged, the coaches made adjustments, the managers hydrated the kids and we came out and played one of our best halves of football. It was a total performance. We ran the ball well and threw it well. We moved the ball effectively, especially for the first game against a quality opponent. We never even punted.”
The Stars struck first in the contest as John White hit Dalton Wiggins for a 19-yard touchdown pass. The PAT failed and Winona led 6-0.
The Panthers responded with a long touchdown as Calvin Johnson hit Javen Anderson on a 74-yard touchdown pass. The Panthers then added another touchdown and made both two-point conversions to lead 16-6.
Winona answered with another touchdown pass from White, who hit Choyce Diffey on a 7-yard touchdown pass. Thomas Costilow ran in the two-point conversion to cut the score to 16-14.
French Camp added another second-quarter score as they scored on a 9-yard run and ran in the two-point conversion to lead 24-14 at the half.
“They played a two-tight front and it’s hard to pressure that,” Graham said. “We brought some pressure in the second half and it worked well for us. We started to get. Lot of pressure on them. And I thought our conditioning was a big factor for us. I thought we were in better shape than they were. I thought they got winded. I think playing in that jamboree really paid off for us. That was their first game of any type and I thought that played to our advantage.”
Things didn’t start out well for the Stars in the second half as they fumbled to open the half. But from there, it was all Winona as they scored three times in the second half. The first score was a 33-yard touchdown pass from White to Diffey. The try for two failed and French Camp led 24-20.
The Stars added another third-quarter score as Wiggins scored on a 29-yard run. The try for two failed and Winona took a 26-24 lead.
Costilow finished out the scoring with a 2-yard run and a two-point conversion for the final margin.
Wiggins had a big night for the Stars as he rushed for 153 yards on 13 carries and he also had eight catches for 99 yards. White was 12-of-22 passing for 225 yards with three touchdowns and one interceptions. Diffey had four catches for 114 yards and two TDs.
Graham said Wiggins carried the ball a little more than he expected.
“Thomas started getting cramps so Dalton got more snaps in the backfield,” Graham said. “They were keyed up to stop Thomas and those safeties were keyed up to stop him. We were able to run some play action and get behind their safeties. Dalton did a good job stepping in and had some good run for us. He is a good change-of-pace back. They are two good backs but they are different.”
The Stars will return home this week as they host Winston Academy.
The Patriots are 0-1 on the season after losing 43-0 to Leake Academy. Despite that score, Graham is leery of the Patriots.
“They are going to be a lot bigger than us physically,” Graham said. “We are kind of mirror images of each other. They play a young quarterback and they are a 4-3 team on defense. They may have an edge in the kicking game. They are well coached and I thought their offensive line executed well. I’m expecting a heck of a game from them.”
Last year, Winona beat Winston 26-15 to end the regular season.