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West Lincoln tops Salem in back-and-forth battle

You could write 500 words about the first half of the game between West Lincoln and Salem on Thursday night at the KDMC Kickoff Classic hosted by Copiah-Lincoln Community College and you’d probably still not be able to properly describe just how wild it was.

West Lincoln head coach BJ Smithhart — wearing a big grin after his Bears had just closed out a 38-28 win over the Wildcats — summed it up best.

“That was one of the wildest first halves I’ve ever seen,” said Smithhart.

It started from the opening kickoff when Salem returner Damien Brumfield caught the ball, dropped it, and returned the kick 88-yards for a touchdown.

The Bear coverage team momentarily stopped their pursuit when Brumfield bobbled the ball and he raced through them untouched to the end zone.

Later in the first quarter — after West Lincoln had cut the Salem lead to 14-12 on the second Michael Brothern touchdown run of the first quarter — Brumfield would strike again. This time his return covered 85-yards and again ended in a Salem touchdown.

Salem led 22-12 after the first quarter and 28-20 at halftime.

Penalties beget penalties in the first half.

Twice West Lincoln committed defensive penalties — one a personal foul penalty that gave the Wildcats a first down — on fourth down plays.

The teams combined for four first half turnovers. There were also two long stoppages due to injuries.

Brumfield went down on a run in the second quarter and spent the rest of the game on crutches. Add to all that a halftime that lasted 25 minutes and it was nearly 9 p.m. when the second half kicked off.

Brothern — who scored three time in the first half – said his legs still felt fresh after halftime.

“I wasn’t tired at halftime, my legs felt good, and we were ready to show in the second half that we could play better than we had,” said Brothern.

The first drive of the second half was the best drive of the night for West Lincoln. It was penalty free, efficient and was capped off by a short touchdown run by freshman running back Enrico Price.

Later in the quarter Brothern would put West Lincoln up for good with his fourth touchdown of the night. Brothern would often line up in the Wildcat formation and eat up big chunks of yardage behind his physical offensive line.

Brothern capped the scoring late in the third quarter with his fifth touchdown of the night. The Bears only converted one 2-point conversion in the game.

Down 38-28, Salem got to the West Lincoln 1-yard line with 90 seconds remaining in the game. The Bear defense stood like a green wall on the goal line and turned away Wildcat runners on four consecutive plays.

West Lincoln defensive end Keshon Byrd says his teammates knew they could play better in the second half. They did just that, shutting out the Wildcats after halftime.

“We had some trouble stopping them at the beginning of the game, but at halftime coach said to keep fighting and he knew we’d wear them down,” said Byrd.

As his players mobbed KDMC Director of Marketing David Culpepper and the trophy he was presenting the team, Smithhart complimented a much-improved Salem team that only won a single game last season.

“Hats off to Salem, they’re a gritty football team,” said Smithhart. “We’ve got to close better and learn how to put a a team away, but I’m so happy for our kids.”

The win moves West Lincoln to 2-0 for the first time since 2009.

Story by Cliff Furr