GAUTIER – A wild finish Friday night sends Pascagoula into the playoffs and keeps Gautier at home for the postseason.
All of the momentum was on the Gautier sideline entering overtime, but Pascagoula snatched it right back by forcing a game-changing turnover.
Pascagoula linebacker Matt Inlow recovered a Deandre Torrey fumble on the first play of overtime. Two plays later, Pascagoula senior quarterback Hunter Collins scampered 10 yards off the right tackle for the game-winning touchdown.
Collins was swarmed by fellow Panthers in the end zone as Pascagoula topped rival Gautier 37-31 to earn a spot in the playoffs.
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"They call it the Singing River Classic for a reason. That was it," Pascagoula head coach Lewis Sims said. "That was a heck of a ball game on both sides. (Gautier coach Chris) Peterson and his staff did a heck of a job. It's a credit to them. They pushed us to the limit, but our guys found a way to win. I couldn't be more proud of the effort we had this week."
Pascagoula (6-5, 5-2) will travel to Wayne County (6-5) in the first round of the Class 5A South State playoffs as the No. 3 seed out of Region 4-5A.
In a brutal way to end the season, Gautier fell short of the playoffs in one of the most entertaining Singing River Classics ever played.
Gautier (4-7, 3-4) forced overtime when sophomore quarterback Kameron Kincaid hit Torrey as he crossed into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass as time expired, tying the game at 31-31 following the extra point by freshman Kyle Gager.
"It was no secret who we were hopefully going to go to," Peterson said of the touchdown pass. "He actually got pushed out of bounds. You can come back in if you're pushed out. We actually tried the same play earlier in the fourth quarter and they didn't call it. This time they did and he caught the ball. He made a great play, catching the ball between two defenders."
On the first snap of overtime, Torrey was barreling through the Pascagoula defense and appeared on his way to a touchdown, but the ball was jarred loose and Inlow recovered.
"My boys came in, hit him hard and he coughed up the ball," Inlow said. "I was there to pick it up. "
Torrey finished with 17 carries for 106 yards, two rushing touchdowns and the one scoring reception.
Torrey did all he could to keep his team in the game, but the late fumble was a deflating end to his final game as a Gator.
"He's heartbroken now," Peterson said. "He hasn't fumbled many times in his career. He's certainly devastated right now, but he's made some incredible plays and he's been a fantastic Gautier Gator football player. He's going to play above this level. We love him and know he's going to do well. We'll sorely miss him."
Kincaid was the only other Gator to get in the end zone when he ran 35 yards for a touchdown with 8:43 remaining in the game, tying the game at 24-24.
Pascagoula received big games from both its senior running backs. Reginald Hunter ran 19 times for 149 yards and three touchdowns and fellow senior Javarous Walker had 23 carries for 153 yards and one touchdown.
"We just kept punching it down their throat and they couldn't top us," Walker said.
Hunter gave Pascagoula a 31-24 lead when he ran 19 yards to the end zone with 3:42 remaining.
Pascagoula and Gautier traded field goals for the only two scores of the first quarter. Pascagoula's Jimmy Gammill hit a 30-yarder and Gager kicked a 32-yard field goal.