The highly anticipated clash between Picayune and Hattiesburg did not disappoint.
Josh Littles ran for 251 yards and scored three touchdowns as Picayune squeezed out a 56-48 victory over Hattiesburg on Friday night at Lee-Triplett Stadium.
Picayune’s first drive of the night ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Littles with 8:37 left in the first quarter. After a Hattiesburg fumble, Littles dashed into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead.
After Hattiesburg got within 14-7, Littles’ 14-yard TD run boosted the Maroon Tide lead to 21-7.
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In the second quarter, Maroon Tide’s V.J. Holt forced Tigers running back Fabian Franklin to fumble the ball at the goal line. Picayune (7-0 overall, 3-0 Region 4-5A) recovered for a touchback.
“When I hit him, I thought he scored,” Holt said. “But when I turned around I saw the ball on the ground so I immediately tried to recover it and luckily one of my teammates was able to get on top of it.”
After the turnover, Picayune marched 80 yards down the field for another Maroon Tide touchdown that was punched in by David Baker for a 6-yard run, bringing the score to 28-7 with 3:20 left in the first half.
The Tigers never backed down. Franklin broke free from a couple of Maroon Tide defenders and ran 22 yards to the end zon, bringing the score to 28-14 with 1:33 left in the half.
Hattiesburg carried the momentum to the third quarter, scoring on their first drive on a 14-yard catch by Jordan Murphy, bringing the score to 28-21 with 10:03 left in the quarter.
However, it seemed that whenever the Tigers got within striking distance, Picayune drove down the field to give themselves a two-score lead.
After receiving the kick off at their own 40 yard line, Picayune pounded a 12-play drive, which set up Brian Taylor with a 5-yard plunge into the end zone with 3:40 to go in the third quarter, giving the Maroon Tide a 35-21 lead.
With 26.8 seconds left in the quarter, Tigers’ wide receiver Murphy caught a 27-yard pass in the corner of the end zone for another touchdown, closing the gap to 35-28.
On Picayune’s next drive, Baker scored on a 5 yard run for a 42-28 lead with 7:40 left.
The resilient Hattiesburg team scored a 59-yard passing touchdown caught by Murphy for his third touchdown of the night, making the score 42-34 after missing a 2-point conversion.
“This team never gives up. I am proud to be their coach because they give me 110 percent every game, no matter what the score is,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said.
With 4:27 left, Hattiesburg trailed 49-34. One minute later, Tigers’ D’andre get within 49-42 after a successful 2-point conversion by Murphy.
After Picayune’s Baker scored a 15-yard touchdown, Hattiesburg quickly responded with a 5-yard rushing touchdown by Conner, getting within 56-48 with 7.8 seconds left.
The Tigers’ recovered their onside kick at the Maroon Tide’s 35-yard line. Picayune's Rashard Johnson quarterback sack on the game’s final play allowed Picayune to hold on.
“If it weren’t for those two fumbles, we would have lost the game,” Picayune coach Dodd Lee said. “We are not good enough on defense right now. We need to get a lot better if we expect to keep winning.”