For a couple of run-heavy teams, Friday night’s showdown between county rivals Harrison Central and No. 5 D’Iberville featured anything but “three yards and a cloud of dust.”
The Region 4-6A showdown was an all-out slugfest with neither the Red Rebels nor the visiting Warriors allowing the opponent to get more than a touchdown’s worth of breathing room.
D’Iberville forced a rare three-and-out with under five minutes remaining. Trailing by four and facing a third-and-13 in their own territory, the Warriors dusted off a tight end screen. Michael Kozlowski rolled to his right and threw back to T.J. Galloway, who rumbled down the visitor’s sideline for a 19-yard gain. Two plays later running back JaQuavis Foster broke free for a 41-yard touchdown around the right side to give D’Iberville the decisive 42-39 victory.
“It’s been in the playbook we just haven’t run it,” DHS coach Eric Collins said of the pass. “The way they were pursuing, I had a good feeling it would work and it worked like a charm. It got us a big first down and then after that Foster did the rest.”
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Foster showed why he’s considered the home run threat out of the Warriors’ backfield on D’Iberville’s final score.
“I seen the hole open up once I rocked,” he said. “They thought it was going to be a sweep and bit and right up the hole (I went).”
The Red Rebels had plenty of offensive success Friday, but the Warriors clamped down on the final possession of the game to secure the win.
DHS (7-3, 5-1) remained atop 4-6A with the victory and clinched a playoff berth, while HCHS (4-6, 2-4) was eliminated from postseason contention.
“I was really proud of our guys and how they came through in the end,” Collins said. “We got behind – I think we learned some lessons over the year – but we kept fighting and came out on top tonight.”
For much of the night it looked like HCHS Keon Moore might run away with the game. The talented junior scored on runs of 38, 15 and 53 yards in the first half and went into the break with 198 yards. He added another 47 yards and a 9-yard score in the second half to pace the night’s backs with 245 yards on 26 carries.
“He’s just a hard runner. He puts the work in at practice, watches film and is so coachable. He just does whatever you tell him to do and as hard as he possibly can,” HCHS coach Casey Cain said. “He does it all. He can block, run hard, catch a ball out of the backfield. Sky is the limit for him as a junior.”
While HCHS had plenty of success offensively, going ahead 39-35 with 10:12 remaining on Moore’s 9-yard run, the Warriors’ defense didn’t allow the Red Rebels across their own 30 on their final two drives.
“(Moore is) a great running back. He’s so fast and quick and he runs behind a massive offensive line. They swallowed our guys, which made it tough, and got a lot of push into our linebackers,” Collins said. “Really and truthfully, we didn’t really stop them but we got the stop when it counted. That says a lot about our guys.”
Quarterback Tavis Williams completed 7 of 11 passes for 115 yards for Harrison Central. He also completed touchdown passes of 52 and 29 yards to D’Artagnan Hawthorne and Chase Jones respectively.
D’Iberville’s trio of Foster, Micah Booker and Kahlil McCray continued to churn out yardage Friday. Booker finished with 74 yards and touchdown runs of 4 and 3 yards. McCray scored on long runs of 25 and 45 yards and finished with 82 yards. Foster led all D’Iberville backs with 105 yards on 14 carries.
“The biggest thing is their Wing-T. Nobody else does it and you have three days to prepare for it,” Cain said. “There’s a lot of misdirection and if you’re not disciplined with your eyes and keys, you’re not going to be successful. That’s what happened a lot of the time tonight; guys looking in the backfield leaving their receivers wide open.”
Kozlowski completed 5 of 12 passes for 119 yards. D’Iberville’s D.J. Polk also scored on a 78-yard kick return in the first quarter.
D’Iberville will host rival St. Martin on Friday. HCHS will close its season at Ocean Springs.