HARTFORD - Geneva County’s Emmanuel Henderson has gotten a lot of ink this year as a major college prospect, but Leroy senior standout Kelston Fikes proved to be the top back Friday night in the their two teams’ showdown.
Fikes, a Murray State commitment and a star for Leroy the last four years, rushed for 252 yards and three touchdowns, pacing the No. 3-ranked Bears to a 26-16 win over Henderson and the Bulldogs in a Class 2A second-round playoff game at J.D. Chesteen Field at Dixie Howell Memorial Stadium.
With the win, Leroy (10-2) advanced to play in the third round at home against Lanett, which defeated G.W. Long Friday.
Geneva County finished the season with an 8-4 record, the best record for the Bulldogs since their 2013 team went 9-3.
Fikes, who missed the last two games of the regular season and was limited in the first round, was the workhorse for Leroy on Friday, carrying it on 20 of the 21 rushes in the first half and 11 of the 20 in the second half. He scored on runs of 9, 17 and 3 yards.
Quarterback Avery Malone had the other Bears score on a 12-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Geneva County’s Henderson rushed for just 71 yards on 14 carries and caught one pass for 11 yards as Leroy controlled the clock throughout the game behind long drives and contained the Bulldog offense for most of the night.
The Bulldog touchdowns came on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Will Birdsong and 4-yard Birdsong to Chico Cotton TD pass. Henderson did score on a pair of two-point conversion.
Leroy led 14-8 at halftime, but extended the margin to 26-8 midway in the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs scored in the final minute.
The Bears rode the running of Fikes in the first half as the senior carried 20 times out of 27 Leroy plays for 149 yards and two touchdowns over four series. Geneva County, which had a first-half turnover, went to Henderson for eight carries and 55 yards.
Leroy took the game’s opening possession 50 yards in seven plays – all Fikes’ runs – to seize a quick 7-0 lead with 8:29 to go in the opening quarter. Fikes scored the touchdown on a 9-yard run up the middle. Grant Massey added the extra point kick.
The Bears got it back seconds later as Massey hit a high kickoff that a Geneva County player called for a fair catch, but had the ball go off his upper body into the air and Leroy’s Xavier Jones caught it for a fumble recovery at the Geneva County 44.
A 37-yard pass from quarterback Malone to Logan Sellers helped Leroy move it to the 9, but the Bulldog defense stiffened behind a sack from Sam Parker and a couple of teammates. A 27-yard field goal attempt was then no good by Massey.
The Bulldog offense, getting the ball for the first time with 4:53 left in the first quarter, marched 80 yards in a nine-play scoring drive. Henderson had a 35-yard run and Ken’li Preyer a 20-yard run to help move the ball inside the 10.
Facing 4th-and-1 at the 1, Birdsong scored on a sneak with just 33 seconds left in the quarter.
A two-point try initially failed for GCHS, but a defensive holding gave the Bulldogs a second chance and Henderson cashed it in by going into the end zone up the middle, giving Geneva County an 8-7 lead.
Leroy threatened again on the ensuing series behind the running of Fikes, pushing the ball from its 26 to the Geneva County 17. On 4th-and-3, the Bears called Fikes’ number again, but Geneva County’s Grayson Bell broke through to drop the Leroy standout in the backfield to prevent the first down.
The Bulldogs gained one first down on the ensuing series but had to punt and Leroy and Fikes went back on the move. After Fikes runs of 5 and 3 yards, Sellers, in at quarterback, kept for 5 yards then threw consecutive passes of 16 and 5 yards to Jones to the Bears at the GCHS 33.
Fikes went for 16 yards then took the next play to the left, got to the corner and motored down the sideline on a 17-yard TD run to put Leroy back in front. Massey added the extra point with 1:38 left in the half to make it 14-8.
The Bears increased their lead on their first possession of the third quarter as Fikes capped a 13-play, 92-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run. He had eight carries in the drive, including a 40-yard run in the first play. The point after kick failed, leaving it 20-8 Bears with 25 seconds to go in the third quarter.
Leroy put some distance between the two teams, scoring on its next possession – an 11-play, 65-yard drive. Malone capped it with his 12-yard touchdown run. The PAT again failed, but the Bears were up 26-8 with 4:45 left.
Geneva County got its final score as Birdsong connected with Cotton on a 4-yard touchdown with just 40 seconds left in the game. Henderson added the two-point conversion to make the final 26-16.
Defensively for Geneva County, Preyer had 6 ½ tackles, Scott Sanders and Bell six each. Broxson had 5 ½ tackles and Parker five.