After a big blowout win over Central Holmes, Winona Christian football Coach Junior Graham was curious to see how his team would respond against Benton Academy.
The Stars started out sluggish but scored 32 second-quarter points to take a 39-7 win over the Raiders on Friday night.
With the win, Winona Christian improves to 4-0 on the season and will host Indianola in a key district contest.
Graham said he was impressed with the effort that Benton gave that lead to a slow start by his team.
“We basically slept through the first quarter,” Graham said. “Benton did some things different defensively that took us a little while to make some adjustments to. Benton played us hard, but they are a young team. We finally were able to get the ball on the perimeter and were able to hit some big runs.”
The Stars only score in the first quarter came on a 51-yard touchdown pass from John White to Dalton Wiggins. Choyce Diffey booted the PAT and Winona led 7-0, a score that held through the first quarter.
But the Stars finally got rolling in the second quarter as they posted 32 points.
The first was a 52-yard pass from White to Wiggins as Diffey booted the PAT and Winona led 14-0.
On the next possession, Thomas Costilow scored on a 39-yard pass from White and Diffey’s PAT gave the Stars a 21-0 lead.
Costilow, who had 32 yards rushing on six carries, scored again as he bulled in on a 3-yard run. The PAT failed and Winona a led 27-0.
The Stars went to the air again as Whit hit Logan Graham on a 21-yard pass play. The PAT failed again and the Stars led 33-0.
The Stars added one last score in the first half when Diffey forced a fumble and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown to ensure a running clock in the second half.
Benton’s only score came in the fourth quarter.
“It was sort of weird, we only ran 19 plays in the first half and scored 39 points,” Graham said. “We went three and out our first two series and then it was like we scored about every time we touched the ball. Our quarterback did a good job of getting the ball out of his hands to our playmakers. Coming off a big win like we had against Central Holmes, it’s hard to come back with that kind of intensity. I thought Benton game planned us pretty good until we adjusted and were able to get the ball to our skill guys out in space.
The Stars only had 210 yards of offense as they only ran 26 offensive plays. White was 7-of-8 passing for four TDs and 189 yards. Wiggins had two catches for 103 yards.
On defense, Ben Pinkard, Hayden Self and Tucker Sykes each had six tackles while Diffey had an interception, forced a fumble, returned a fumble for a TD and blocked a field goal.
Benton had 99 yards rushing on 28 carries and was 3-of-16 passing for 183 yards and four interceptions.
The Stars will face their biggest test of the season so far when they host Indianola, who played for the Class AAA state championship last year but dropped down in classification.
The Colonels are 2-2 on the season and are coming off a 27-11 win over Central Holmes. They also beat Bayou 21-14 to open the year. They lost 52-0 to Pillow and 35-14 to North Delta.
Despite the 2-2 record, Graham has plenty of respect for the Colonels.
“They may be down in talent comparable to what they have had because it has been a big gap between them and us,” Graham said. “They are still well coached and it’s hard to figure out what they do defensively. They are well coached and don’t beat themselves. They don’t turn it over a ton and they don’t beat themselves. They don’t have the size and numbers they have had in the past but they are solid across the board.”
Graham said the biggest thing for his team this week starts on the practice fields at WCS.
“I think the big thing is getting our guys to believe that we can play with them,” Graham said. “They beat us up pretty good the last two years and it has been a big gap between us the last three years. We’ve just got to believe we can win.”