Hattiesburg stays undefeated with win at PicayuneBy CAMAL PETRO,
PICAYUNE – The Picayune Maroon offense could not be held down Friday night, but all the Hattieburg Tigers needed was one stop to help earn the win.
Really, it wasn’t even a stop because the Maroon Tide running back Shaun Anderson rushed the ball for 22 yards before he fumbled to give the ball back to Hattiesburg. The Tigers moved down the field quickly, then scored with 2:30 left to play on fourth-and-5 from the Picayune 11 to defeat the Maroon Tide 41-37.
“I just knew at some point we were going to have to have a stop or a turnover,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said.
The Tigers move to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in Region 4-5A, while Picayune falls to 7-2 and 4-1. If Hattiesburg can beat Long Beach next week, it’ll be district champions and earn the No. 1 seed in the 5A playoffs, which begins in three weeks.
“We’re 1-0 this week and that’s all that matters,” Vance said.
The final quarter
The Tigers began the fourth quarter with a punt, then Picayune used a six-play, 79-yard drive to extend its lead to 37-28. At this point, the Maroon Tide’s lone drive when they didn’t score a touchdown was a first-half field goal.
Hattiesburg cut into the lead on its next possession, though. Conner found senior D’andre Humbles for a 38-yard gain, then junior quarterback Jarod “Snoop” Conner connected with Willis over the middle for an 11-yard score.
As a matter of fact, the play call on that touchdown was the same exact play the Tigers ran to win the game later in the quarter, but Humbles was the receiver that time.
With seven minutes remaining and clinging to a 37-34 lead, Picayune was more than capable of running out most of the clock or adding to its lead. However, when Anderson sprinted up the left side, he fumbled after gaining 22 yards and Hattiesburg’s Chris Turner, a junior defensive lineman, recovered to give the Tigers a chance.
Conner and Humbles missed on a wide-open play up the left side on the second play, but two plays later, Conner found Humbles for a 36-yard gain to put the ball at the Picayune 16.
“I knew he was going to be open,” Conner said. “It was a mismatch the entire time. I knew he was going to catch it the second time. It was just one mistake. I knew he was going to come back stronger and make the play.”
Hattiesburg needed to kill some clock because Picayune doesn’t need much time to score, so after three running plays to set up a fourth-and-5 from the 11, the Tigers ran the pass play to Humbles over the middle for the win.
“D’andre Humbles,” Vance said when asked what went into the decision for the final pass play. “That’s what it boiled down to. Let’s give it to our playmaker and let’s give him the opportunity to make a play right here. He had a great game tonight.”
Humbles finished the night with 79 yards and the touchdown on three receptions, and Conner was 11-for-23 for 232 passing yards and four touchdowns. Conner also led the team with 100 rushing yards and a score.
The game started how it was expected to start, with both offenses being able to move the ball down the field. Hattiesburg needed just four plays on its first drive to score, as Conner found senior receiver Jaylynn Page for a 41-yard touchdown pass to give Hattiesburg a 7-0 lead.
Picayune moved the ball 75 yards on eight plays on the ensuing drive, and Anderson capped it off with his 1-yard score. After the missed point-after-attempt, Hattiesburg clung to a 7-6 lead.
The Tigers’ punted on their next drive, the first of two in the contest, then Picayune marched down the field on another eight-play drive, this time covering 95 yards, to take a 14-7 lead after the successful 2-point play.
Hattiesburg moved down the field in a hurry when it got the ball back, using an 8-yard pass and catch from Conner to junior Jarius McFarland and a 10-yard run by Conner to set up near midfield. On the fifth play of the drive, Conner found senior Raheem Williams for a 44-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14.
The Tigers defense’s lone victory in the first half came on Picayune’s next drive. It moved the ball to the Hattiesburg 4-yard line but was forced to kick a 21-yard field goal to regain the lead, 17-14.
With 1:18 on the clock before halftime, Conner completed a 29-yard pass to junior Darius Ruffin and a 30-yard pass to Humbles. Conner finished the drive with 38 seconds left on the clock on an 8-yard rushing score to take a 21-17 into the break.
Picayune rushing attack
The Maroon Tide rushed for 505 yards on 56 carries Friday night, and they scored on every possession besides the fourth-quarter fumble. Any time the Tigers got Picayune to a third down, it was a win for the defense. However, Picayune was 6-for-8 on third downs to extend most of its drives.
Anderson, a 5-foot-8 senior, rushed for a game-high 297 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries, and senior Brian Taylor added 107 rushing yards and a score. Anderson had rushing touchdowns of 1, 34, 28 and 35 yards, while Taylor’s score came from the 38-yard line.
“Not taking anything away from (Anderson), but regardless who they put back there or what they do, every year they produce another (running back),” Vance said.