For a meeting between two previously undefeated teams, Friday night’s showdown between Greene County and Long Beach looked mostly like an offensive struggle for much of the evening. Between drops, turnovers and constant flags that bogged down both teams as they tried to play with tempo, it’s safe to say Lumpkin-Magee Stadium has hosted cleaner games.
After opening the scoring on their first drive, the Wildcats’ offense went dormant for much of the middle two quarters before late-game heroics eventually lifted the visitors to a 20-14 win over Long Beach.
“That last few minutes was a blur,” new GCHS coach Michael King said. “It was crazy.”
Trailing 14-6 midway through the fourth quarter, King’s Wildcats (5-0) pieced together a 10-play, 65-yard drive, capped by an 8-yard touchdown run up the middle by quarterback Derrick Grice with 6:08 remaining. Needing a 2-point conversion to tie the game, King called Grice’s number again and the senior came through, maneuvering his way around the right side of the line for the two points.
“He makes everything go,” King said. “He got banged up a few weeks ago and we didn’t run him a whole lot after he had the shoulder injury, but now that he’s back healthy we feel comfortable calling his number and letting him throw the ball and pick up first downs in short yardage situations, which is huge for us.”
LBHS (3-1) looked like it would break the tie on its next possession, flipping the field on the Wildcats, but its drive stalled on fourth down at Greene County’s 24. That’s when Grice went back to work.
Facing third-and-long at Long Beach’s 44, Grice heaved a pass deep down the middle of the field. Kevin Dortch tracked the ball from the left side and beat his corner, snagging the ball with a diving effort to ensure the 42-yard gain with 27.5 seconds remaining in the game. Grice then plowed his way through the middle of the line for a 2-yard go-ahead score with just over 22 seconds remaining.
One last chance
Even after the late score, Long Beach had a chance to strike back. Backed up at their own 20, LBHS quarterback Cade Crosby eluded several pass rushers before finding go-to receiver Kai Vancourt all alone along Long Beach’s sideline. The soccer standout sprinted to the Wildcats’ 6, but a flag negated the huge gain. Crosby was sacked on the next play to end the game and Long Beach’s winning streak at three games.
LBHS coach Forrest Williams was disappointed with the loss for a number of reasons, but said the bitter taste may be good for his players ahead of next week’s Region 4-5A opener at Pearl River Central.
“You never want to lose but this doesn’t affect our goal of trying to get into the playoffs,” he said. “It brings us down to earth a little bit, which is good.”
Greene County struck first with a 3-yard run from Grice on its opening possession.
It took a while for the Bearcats to find their groove offensively, but mid-way through the second quarter the hosts found pay dirt. Running back Dennis Andrews’ 25-yard touchdown run up the middle capped an eight-play, 87-yard drive with 4:52 remaining in the half.
Early in the fourth quarter Andrews scored again on a bruising 12-yard run that looked like it might give LBHS a decisive 14-6 win, but the home team’s advantage was short lived as Grice and company took the field for what ended up being the game-tying drive.
“The one thing about what they do defensively with a 4-2 box is we don’t have enough in there to block their guys unless we run the quarterback,” King said. “We knew coming in that if we were to win the game Derrick was going to have to have a pretty good game running the football. I don’t know if he racked up a ton of yards, just those crucial short yardage situations (made the difference).”
Looking forward, not backward
Greene County visits Moss Point next Friday with a chance to possess a 6-0 record heading into its Region 7-4A schedule.
“They won four games last year and six games total in three years, so we’re sitting here with five wins. We’re going to tell them this week you’re only guaranteed is five; we told them last week all you’re guaranteed is four,” said King, who took over the program this spring after spending the last three seasons at George County. “We’re constantly looking forward and not backward. That’s what we’re doing with the guys and every challenge and every time we’ve asked those guys to step up they have done that and then some. It has been awesome.”