Josh Littles galloped for two touchdowns Friday night, and the Picayune defense held off a fourth-quarter rally as the Maroon Tide defeated Harrison Central 21-13 at Earl Phillips Sr. Memorial Stadium.
Littles scored on touchdown dashes of 39 and 56 yards as undefeated Picayune (4-0) overcame an early 7-0 lead by host Harrison Central (2-2). Blake Merrifield upped the lead to 21-7 with 11:01 left in the third quarter before the Maroon Tide had to hang on as the Red Rebels tried to take advantage of two late Picayune fumbles.
The monsoon-like conditions on Friday night reminded Picayune coach Dodd Lee of the time when Picayune beat Clarksdale 24-6 at Mississippi College in 1986 for the 5A state title.
“Probably like ’86 in Clinton in the Mud Bowl,’’ Lee recalled.
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As for Friday, Lee said, “We did some good things tonight but we have to be able to operate our base offense in a monsoon. We didn’t do it tonight. We laid it on the ground a couple of times. We had a chance to put the game away and never did. I think we can do a better job but I think Harrison Central did a good job. They had a plan that was good. Their quarterback is an outstanding player.
“Our defense has been carrying us. We’ve been turning the ball over too much. But we will work on it.’’
Littles, a 5-foot-7, 165-pound senior, rushed for 206 yards on 24 carries. Merrifield chipped in a 39 yards on 9 carries.
“It was real tough, the ball was real slippery. We couldn’t really get our hands on it,’’ Littles said. “But we fought through. At the end, the defense came through and won us the game. My runs were off some real good blocking. I give all the credit to my line. When they block, I pull through.’’
Red Rebel junior Keon Moore, who rushed for 130 yards on 15 carries, gave HCHS the early 7-0 lead when he sprinted 67 yards on a dive play with 1:19 left in the first quarter. Alex Deleo added the PAT.
Littles went 39 yards for his first TD with 2:13 left before halftime and Isidro Loya added the first of three extra points. On the Tide’s next possession, Littles streaked 56 yards and Picayune led 14-7 at halftime.
Trailing 21-7 midway in the third quarter, Harrison Central marched 56 yards in 13 plays but Picayune held the Red Rebs at the Tide 4 on downs with 11:08 left in the game.
After a Rashaud Fairley fumble recovery at the Picayune 14, HCHS cut the lead to 21-13 on Tavis Williams’ 1-yard TD run with 6:48 left. Williams rushed for 85 yards on 22 carries in the contest.
Harrison Central got one last chance to tie the game when Austin Gray pounced on a Tide fumble at the Harrison Central 41 with 3:21 left. The Red Rebels drove to the Picayune 24 before the drive was stopped with 36 seconds left.
“There is no doubt they are the best team we’ve played all year,’’ HCHS coach Casey Cain said. “I told our kids all week we had nothing to lose and everything to gain. We had to give everything to get ready for district, which starts next week.
“I was proud of our defense. We started a freshman defensive lineman (Dalton Cuevas) and we had some people banged up and hurt.
“These kids gave everything every down and I’m proud of their effort.’’