French Camp Academy warmed up for the playoffs by scoring the team's most points in 12 years in a 61-14 victory over Smithville.
The Panthers will play at Baldwyn Friday to begin their quest for a MHSAA Class 1A State Football Campionship.
Led by quarterback C.J. Johnson, French Camp had a first half offensive explosion against Smithville with a 47-14 lead at intermission. With reserves on the field, the Panthers added two fourth quarter touchdowns for the most points since a 62-0 victory over now-closed Edinburg in 2008.
Johnson continues to show why the U.S. Naval Academy recruited him to play quarterback for the Midshipmen. In half a game, he carried eight times for 221 yards and four touchdowns, completed four of five passes for 118 yards and one TD and had a 37-yard kickoff return. He was again named as one of the state’s outstanding performers by The Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
Johnson began the offensive onslaught with a 78-yard TD run four minutes into the game. He also had an 85-yard scoring run and Landon Rushing a 28-yard interception return for a TD that made it 21-0 after one quarter.
“We played well. We came out and pretty quickly it was 21 nothing,” said coach Nathan Wright. “We scored on the first play from the line of scrimmage, but they called it back, so we scored on the second play.”
The Panthers added four second quarter TDs on two Johnson runs, a 60-yard pass from Johnson to Darrion Smith and a 10-yard run by Rashawn Sayles.
Avery Summers scored the Panthers’ final two touchdowns in the fourth quarter on a 23-yard run and a 60-yard pass from Ethan Chesser.
French Camp finished with a season high 568 yards – 324 on the ground and 244 through the air. When a team has more than 300 yards rushing, the offensive line is doing its job. For French Camp, that’s Clay Dean at center, Logan Campbell and Ethan Wright at guard and Christian Howell and Bradley McCoy at tackle.
Chesser was four of six passing for 126 yards, Sayles carried 11 times for 80 yards, Summers totaled 117 yards running and receiving on three touches and Smith had four receptions for 96 yards. Smith also had two interceptions and Chesser had one.
In addition to his pick-six, Rushing was the leading tackler with 13 and forced two fumbles. Howell had 10 tackles, including a sack.
French Camp has plenty of momentum heading into the playoffs with five straight wins by a total score of 224-68. “We’re meshing at the right time. It’s a lot of fun,” Wright said. “I hope we can continue that this week.”
Baldwyn is also on a roll with victories over Ashland 50-0, Falkner 48-0 and Myrtle 57-8 in the last three games.
“At this point you expect everybody to be good,” Wright said. “If you’re not good you go home.”
The Bearcats were second in Region 1-1A with s 5-2 record (5-3 overall). A balanced Baldwyn offense is led by 6-3 senior quarterback Maddux Richey.
French Camp is 6-3 overall and 6-2 in 2-1A. Undefeated two-time defending state champion Nanih Waiya won the region, with Tupelo Christian second, French Camp third and West Lowndes fourth. They will be matched up with teams from 1-1A in the playoffs. Nanih Waiya has a home game with fourth place Myrtle, Tupelo Christian a home game with third-place Ashland and West Lowndes will be on the road against unbeaten Biggersville, the state’s highest scoring team at 55.5 points per game.
Biggersville’s lowest point total came in a 40-13 victory over Baldwyn.
If French Camp and Nanih Waiya win, they will meet in the second round at French Camp November 20. The Panthers’ last loss was 35-14 against Nanih Waiya September 25.