Hattiesburg claims fifth straight Lil Brown JugBy CAMAL PETRO,
HATTIESBURG – Over the last five years, the only time the Lil Brown Jug has been in the city of Laurel is when the Hattiesburg Tigers have traveled to play the Golden Tornadoes in the annual rivalry game.
Leading up to Saturday night, it hasn’t been in Laurel’s possession since the Tigers won the 2014 meeting between the two schools. It won’t leave Hattiesburg for another 365 days either, as Hattiesburg claimed the Battle for the Lil Brown Jug for the fifth straight year, 41-20.
“Super proud of our kids, our team and this city that rallies behind us every time we get ready to play for this Jug,” Vance said “Hats off to (Laurel's head) coach (Todd) Breland. We know chances are that they’re going to be one of the teams at the end. If we want to get where we want to go, we’re going to see them again.”
The Tigers trailed briefly Saturday night when Laurel grabbed a 7-0 lead after its first drive of the game. The Tigers actually started that drive with two straight tackles for loss, but two big pass plays by senior Sinclair Ulmer put the Tornadoes in position to grab the early lead.
Ulmer capped off the drive with a 23-yard touchdown scamper, but Hattiesburg needed just nine plays and less than three minutes of game time to tie the game at 7 on its next drive. Senior quarterback Jarod “Snoop” Conner matched Ulmer’s run with a 16-yard rushing touchdown up the middle.
Conner had another big game for Hattiesburg, rushing for 264 yards and four touchdowns while passing for 97 yards on 10-of-19 attempts.
Vance was asked if it’s possible for Conner to have an average game, and he responded with a smile.
“I thought he was pretty average tonight,” Vance said with a smirk. “I don’t even know what he was, but I thought he was pretty average.”
When Vance was told Conner had nearly 150 rushing yards by halftime, Vance responded, “That’s it?”
Conner added touchdowns from the 1-, 4- and 19-yard lines in the game, and all four touchdowns meant something different for Hattiesburg. The first touchdown tied the game at 7-all, his second pushed Hattiesburg’s lead to 21-7, the third score made it a two-possession game early in the fourth quarter and final one iced the game.
When it came down to running out the clock to finish off Laurel, Vance put the ball in Conner’s hand on the final drive. He rushed nine straight times, finishing it off the drive – and the game – with his 19-yarder.
“No. 1, he’s normally going to take care of the football for us, and he makes great decisions,” Vance said. “He’s put on 20 pounds and we’re going to use him.”
Drexlan Allen found pay dirt in the contest, scoring from 10 yards out to give Hattiesburg a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, and senior Jairus McFarland returned a kickoff back for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 34-20.
“We want to have answers when people hit us in the mouth on defense,” Vance said. “We have to be able to respond and do what we call ‘put the fire out,’ and we did that every time tonight.”
The Tigers’ defense allowed Laurel to gain 284 rushing yards, but when they needed to step up for a stop, they usually did. Hattiesburg forced a fumble on Laurels’ first drive of the second, which was recovered by junior Anthony Bullock, and it led to a Hattiesburg touchdown, then it had a fourth-down stop deep in its own territory to take the ball back while leading by 14 points.
“I thought the guys did a better job taking care of their assignments, playing downhill and getting penetration in the backfield,” Vance said. “That’s where it starts, with our defensive front, and I thought our defensive front played pretty good tonight.”
Hattiesburg (2-0) will move its games back to the traditional Friday night slot next week, as it travels to Moss Point. Laurel (1-1) will host Oak Grove (2-0).
Late in the fourth quarter an incident occurred that caused both teams to leave the field and head to the locker rooms. With a little more than two minutes to play, fans in the stands and on the field began to scatter, which resulted in both coaches sending their teams off the field. Hattiesburg had the ball when the incident occurred, and it scored when play resumed to bring the game to its final, 41-20.