MOSS POINT — Normally it’s St. Stanislaus’ offense that leads the charge. Friday night, it was the Rockachaws’ defense that made the statement. The visitors used a 23-point halftime cushion to defeat Moss Point 44-20. With the win, the Rockachaws (10-3) advance to the Class 4A South State finals to face Lawrence County on the road.
A week earlier, the Tigers (7-6) ran wild at North Pike while racking up 62 points. Against the Rockachaws, Moss Point was unable to muster much of a ground attack.
“I was surprised we weren’t able to move the ball in the first half,” Moss Point coach Willie Brown said. “Their front seven on defense made the difference tonight. We thought we could block them and that in order for them to stop us their safeties would have to get in the game. They stayed back and we still weren’t able to get anything going because of their front seven.”
In the third-round meeting, the Tigers struggled to move the ball with any regularity in the first half. The host squad failed to complete a pass and were hit in the backfield nine times.
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“They gave us every opportunity to play well on offense, the defense did,” SSC coach Bill Conides said. “The defense has just been lights out. Its been steadily improving every week. It starts at the top with the seniors, Mason Favre, Mitchell Walk and Tommy Reeder. Those are the guys who are spearheading the effort.
Moss Point’s best chance to score in the first half came on the team’s second possession. The reigning Sun Herald Offensive Player of the Week, Omni Wells, returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. The score was called back because of a late block in the back and the Rockachaw defense buckled down, forcing a turnover on downs.
The Tigers came out throwing in the second half and quarterback Romello Leggins connected with Amari Williamson for a 35-yard touchdown over the middle. The duo connected again, mid-way through the fourth quarter, on a 5-yard score.
“We were able to try it and make a few plays,” Brown said. “That’s not our game but we had to try something..”
Moss Point’s final score of the game came on defense when Anthony Kirkland scooped up a loose ball on a kickoff and returned it for a short touchdown.
Leading the offense
The Rockachaws jumped out to a 23-0 halftime lead thanks to a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Myles Brennan to receiver Corbin Blanchard, a safety and short touchdown runs of 1 and 2 yards from Brennan and running back Cahill Marlowe.
Following Moss Point’s first touchdown, the Rockachaws extended their lead on consecutive possessions a 30-yard touchdown to Chase Rogers and a 23-yarder to Owen Betz.
Marlowe, who shouldered the rushing load for the first time this season, capped St. Stanislaus’ scoring with a 5-yard run early in the fourth. The sophomore running back finished with a game-high 136 yards and two scores on 17 carries.
“It was Cahill all night tonight,” Conides said. “I told him before the game this was his opportunity because he was going to get every single touch.
“It was time to see what he could do with it and he was great. He was really, really good.”
Brennan completed 15 of 24 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Rogers led SSC’s receivers with 86 yards on three catches.
“He was phenomenal,” Conides said, singling out Rogers’ touchdown grab where the tight end pulled in the ball with a defender draped on him. “He’s so physical he’s a freak.”
Betz finished with three receptions for 52 yards. Blanchard and Darius Pittman each had 46 yards receiving.
Leggins ended up completing 7 of 18 passes for 106 yards. Williamson caught six passes for 99 yards with two touchdowns.
Late in the fourth quarter, Moss Point’s Lajulian Craig was injured at the line of scrimmage. The freshman lineman had to be carted off the field on a stretcher and was taken by ambulance to an area hospital.
Brown said Craig was able to move his limbs but he said he’s unsure of the severity of the injury.
The Class 4A South State series will be a rematch of the 2010 first-round matchup between SSC and Lawrence County. The Rockachaws won the only meeting between the two programs, 30-21.
In the north, reigning Class 4A champion Noxubee County is still alive after rallying to defeat Houston 56-26. The Tigers (10-4) will play Greenwood, which edged Kosciusko 23-22. Of note: The Bulldogs (12-1) are quarterbacked by the son of West Harrison basketball coach Milton Ray, Damarius Ray.