Behind Nicholson, Petal extends win streak after blowout win over Terry

By CAMAL PETRO,

PETAL – It’s a tough job to be the Petal quarterback, especially when the team begins the season 1-6 and 0-3 in region play. Junior DeCarlos Nicholson, however, never wavered.

Nicholson and the Panthers reeled off four straight wins to end the regular season, and they secured the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The win streak was extended after a 42-7 win over Terry Thursday night, and Nicholson turned in one of his best performances of the season.

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“It’s one of those things as a quarterback and head coach, we get too much credit when things are going good and we get too much blame when things are going bad, and he handled it well,” Petal coach Marcus Boyles said. “His mom probably didn’t handle it as well as he did, but he knew he wasn’t playing as good as he could. There was a learning curve.”

Boyles has seen a tremendous growth in his quarterback, too. He referenced back to Week 1 against Hattiesburg when Nicholson wouldn’t execute the run-pass option plays effectively enough. Thursday night, he was doing everything near perfect.

Nicholson’s play down the stretch was going to dictate whether or not Petal could turnaround the season, and he answered the bell with leadership and focus in practice. The entire team did, too, and it’s allowed the Panthers to reach the postseason for the 11th straight season.

“We’ve had great weeks of practice and everybody has been doing their job,” he said. “It was pretty tough. At Petal, football is huge. When you start off 1-6 with everybody losing faith around the community and school, we just had to strap it up and get focused.”  

The Petal signal caller passed for 201 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-15 passing, and he added 54 rushing yards on two carries as well. All of his production came in the first half, as he helped build a 28-0 lead at the break. With the game in hand, he only attempted one pass in the second half.

“We just went out and executed everything,” Nicholson said. “(Terry) gave us everything we looked at on film.”

Thursday night and the 24-6 win over Meridian two weeks ago rival each other as two of the best performances by Nicholson this season.

“Meridian was pretty big,” Boyles said. “He played really well at Meridian. You can see he really willed us to win that football game, so these two games are probably the best two.”

The junior quarterback began the game with three straight completions of 5, 26 and 40 yards to give Petal a 7-0 lead. The latter completion was for a touchdown to senior Trent Williams.

Williams led the receivers with 86 yards and two scores on four receptions. He added his second touchdown grab in the second quarter when Nicholson found him over the middle for a 27-yard score to extend the lead to 28-0.

A touchdown pass to senior Zy Magee from 33 yards out and a 4-yard touchdown run by junior Micah McGowan happened in-between Williams’ touchdown receptions.

Seniors J’lin Jones and Samaj Silas added rushing touchdowns of 27 and 6 yards, respectively, in the second half to push the lead to 42-0, then Terry avoided the shutout loss with a score late in the fourth quarter.

Petal now turns its attention to a rematch with Gulfport in the first round of the 6A playoffs. The two played earlier this season, which the Admirals won 33-28. The first-round contest will be played Friday at 7 p.m. in Gulfport.

“I already know we’re going to have a good game plan because they shouldn’t have beat us the last time,” Nicholson said. “There will be an extra chip on our shoulder because everybody probably thinks we can’t win this game, but we think we can win it.”