Mary Montgomery’s Shondell Harris breaks loose on a 35-yard touchdown run against Bryant Thursday night in Semmes. (Helen Joyce/Call News)
Mary Montgomery quarterback Jared Hollins completed his first nine passes against Bryant Thursday night and finished 11 of 13 for 182 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-7 win over the Hurricanes. (Helen Joyce/Call News)
Mary Montgomery receiver James Bolton turns upfield after catching a pass from Jared Hollins against Bryant Thursday night. Bolton had four receptions for 112 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown bomb on the first play. (Helen Joyce/Call News)
By JIMMY WIGFIELD
SEMMES — The days leading up to Mary G. Montgomery’s game against Alma Bryant were full of potential craters for the No. 4-ranked Vikings to step in, not that they needed any more injuries.
It was homecoming. It was a short week. The Hurricanes had been stubborn, if not successful, in losing two of their first three games.
“We didn’t want to get caught up in homecoming and people talking about us being 4-0,” MGM quarterback Jared Hollins said.
And worst of all for the Vikings, starting running back Troy Flowers had torn his ACL the week before and was lost for the season.
But Hollins was nearly perfect, MGM’s defense was nearly flawless and, halfway through the regular season, the Vikings remained unstained with a 42-7 rout of Bryant Thursday night at Grider Stadium.
Hollins was 11-of-13 passing for 182 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown bomb to James Bolton on the first play from scrimmage, and he peppered the Hurricanes with three more scoring passes in a dominating first half.
“You can’t make mistakes against a quarterback with that kind of arm talent,” Bryant coach Bart Sessions said. “And you’ve got to be able to throw it some and control the ball. We didn’t. Give credit to them — they have very talented skill people.”
Shondell Harris, the sophomore who is enjoying an All-State caliber season at safety, bounced off two defenders on a 35-yard scoring run and went sideline to sideline on an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Flirtation with perfection has come in many shades this season for Mary Montgomery (5-0, 3-0 7A Region 1). It still hasn’t turned the ball over while the defense forced three more Thursday night to give it 17 in five games. The Vikings scored the first five times they had the ball against the Hurricanes (1-3, 0-2), who had just 105 yards of total offense. Harris broke the long kickoff return. And, perhaps most promisingly, MGM put together 158 yards on the ground with seven running backs doing their share to make up for Flowers’ absence.
“The message all week was, ‘Prepare for a war and expect to dominate,” said Vikings coach Zach Golson, whose team has won 11 straight regular-season games. “Our kids were really focused and we played solid in all three phases.”
Flowers, who will undergo knee surgery next week, had rushed for 366 yards and averaged 5.8 yards per carry after missing most of his junior season with a broken arm.
“Troy is still a college football player,” Golson said. “He told me he’s going to start rehab after his surgery and go find a home and play college football. I hate it for him, to have worked as hard as he has and go down with two freak injuries in two years.”
But senior Javione Hawthorne ran for a game-best 63 yards on 11 carries Thursday night and sophomore Javoris Pettiway demonstrated some tough running, giving Golson confidence MGM can be successful with a committee of running backs.
“Jared is off to a good start running the ball,” he said. “We wanted to protect him tonight. Hawthorne is going to be a good player. He’s been waiting his turn. Javoris Pettiway is an explosive player and he’s going to get better as the game slows down for him. He can be a special player. Shondell helps us too but we’ve got to be smart about how much we use him. We’ve got a lot of trust in all those guys.”
Said Harris: “It’s going to work out. I want Troy to get better but now it’s the next man up.”
After Hollins found Bolton open deep on the first play with Bryant’s safeties walked up, the Vikings went on to lead 28-0 after one quarter and 42-7 at halftime after drives of 25, 44, 33 and 40 yards. Safety Jalen Gray set up two of the scores in the first quarter with an interception at the Hurricanes’ 25 and a fumble recovery on a kickoff at Bryant’s 33.
“When you give them a short field, they can strike in a hurry,” Sessions said.
Hollins responded to the short fields with TD throws of 2 yards to Kaden Harrell, 18 yards to Jaylin Culver and 25 yards to Jariell Lett.
Bolton had four catches for 112 yards but dropped what would have been a 47-yard TD pass from Hollins late in the first half after the ball hit Bolton in the chest near the goal line.
Hollins could joke about it afterward.
“James is hard enough on himself,” Hollins said. “I gave him a little lip about it.”
Harris took away the scant momentum the Hurricanes stirred up after their touchdown by returning the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown and a 35-7 lead. He grabbed the ball in front of MGM’s bench, then raced to the other side of the field and turned down the other sideline.
“My first thought was to let it go out of bounds but then I picked it up and got to the outside and nobody was catching me,” Harris said.
MGM outgained Bryant 382 yards to 105 on the way to matching the most points it has scored in one game under Golson.
“The challenge on offense has been that we’ve been one guy short all season and we need all 11 guys to get a plus on every play,” Golson said. “If we have that mentality, it’ll be fewer times we’ll have plays where we’re one guy off.
“We had another clean game with ball security. The fun part is our defense is so good at forcing turnovers and they work hard to get it off our offense in practice, so our offensive guys are conscious of not giving it away.”
Running back Isaiah Dixon scored the Hurricanes’ only touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter to make it 28-7.
“Our kids didn’t lay down but it’s tough when you let them get that big of a lead,” Sessions said. “Our kids are resilient. We’ve gotten better every year and we’ve got some good days ahead of us.”
Bryant — which has had 19 straight losing seasons — is 2-42 against ranked teams and 1-49 when allowing 40-plus points.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are 15-1 and 33-1 since 2000 when scoring 40-plus points and allowing less than 10, respectively.
Sessions, who coached McGill-Toolen to the Class 7A semifinals in 2013, said MGM can go a long way.
“As long as number 7 is running around back there, they’re capable of a lot,” Sessions said of Hollins. “He’s everything you want and he’s got weapons around him. He’s got a good play-caller in Zach and (defensive coordinator) Alex Page has that defense playing with passion. They have all the tools. Of course, you always need a few breaks too.”