JACKSON — Greenville Christian School junior DeAndre Smith lived up to his “Primetime” nickname in Friday night’s Class 3A championship against top-ranked Carroll Academy at Jackson Academy.
The Greenwood High transfer totaled 454 yards and five touchdowns, two through the air and three on the ground, as the Saints cruised to a 52-20 rout of the previously undefeated Rebels to claim their first state title in 38 years.
“I’ve been trying for two years,” said Smith, who lost to Corinth in last year’s north State final. “My freshman year I got knocked out of the playoffs, my sophomore year I got put out in the playoffs. It’s just working hard every year to get back to this point, and now I finished it.”
Carroll head coach Bo Milton was proud of his squad, which battled despite having less total players than GCS had transfers this season.
“We played hard all year, ran into a really good football team tonight and you tip your hat to them,” Milton said. “I’m proud of our seven seniors and what they accomplished: undefeated regular season and went to the state championship for the first time in 22 years.”
Smith silenced a raucous Rebels crowd on GCS’s opening drive, picking apart Carroll’s defense through the air before finishing the drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound signal caller connected with Leflore High transfer Kerrick Ross on the 2-point try to make it 8-0 early.
The Rebels responded on the ensuing possession as Mathis Beck fought his way into the end zone from 19 yards out. Following a missed extra point attempt, Carroll trailed 8-6.
The Saints kept cruising on offense, scoring on touchdown runs courtesy of Smith and running back Marlon Palmer to extend their lead to 22-6. When the Rebels’ defense finally stood tall and forced a fourth-down stop against GCS, Carroll’s offense couldn’t convert on a costly turnover on downs in the red zone.
Smith marched back up field, carrying the Saints into the red zone with an acrobatic run to the right edge. The dual threat capped the drive with a quick strike to Daishun Scott, and Palmer flattened a Rebels tackler on the 2-point try to stretch GCS’s advantage to 30-6 in the second quarter.
Hunter “Hollywood” Brackin fought his way into the end zone to give Carroll a glimmer of hope before halftime, but the Rebels’ celebration was short-lived. On the next play, Ross spun Carroll’s defense in circles during a stunning 95-yard kickoff return that put the Saints ahead 38-12 following a successful 2-point conversion toss to Daylin Metcalf.
“The first kickoff they gave me, I slipped up,” Ross said. “The turf monster got me. But I told myself the next time they kick it to me, I’m going run it back. We snatched all the momentum — everything they thought they had, we took it away just as fast.”
“For me to see that one was like, ‘Wow,’” Smith said. “I don’t know how he got out of that one.”
Ross added a 40-yard touchdown reception, and Smith sliced through the Rebels’ defense for a 51-yard touchdown run to seal the victory in the second half.
“People really underestimate the fact that he can run the ball,” said Ross, who finished with five catches for 102 yards. “They think he’s just a pass-first type of guy. He showed you tonight even when he’s struggling throwing the ball, he can make a big difference on the ground. Kid’s talented, he’s got a bright future.”
After the game, Smith didn't give any hints when the two-sport star was asked whether he'd return to Greenwood High for basketball season.
"The world may never know," laughed Smith, who won tournament MVP during the Bulldogs' state title hoops run in the spring.
Brackin finished with 96 yards on 18 carries for Carroll. Mathis Beck had 89 yards on 12 carries and a TD.
Brennan Blaylock and Noah Beck connected from 26 yards out in the fourth.