VANCLEAVE - Three Lawrence County backs rushed for over 100 yards each as the Cougars held off Vancleave 35-21 in the Class 4A state quarterfinals on Friday.
Lawrence County (13-1) will host St. Stanislaus (10-3) in the 4A South State Finals. The Rockachaws defeated Moss Point 44-20 in the other quarterfinal contest.
Quitten Brown led the Cougars rushing onslaught with 236 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.
"It's an honor (to reach South State)," Brown said. "We've been talking about this since the summer."
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Behind Brown, Charl'Tez Nunnery, and T-Tez Cole, the Cougars slashed the Bulldogs (6-8) for 474 yards rushing.
But behind an opportunistic defense that forced seven negative plays, Vancleave held tough to tie the game at 14-14 at halftime. Colten Hipp chased down Brown on the Bulldogs' two-yard-line after a 63 yard run on the first half's final play.
"We went into the half tied," said Vancleave coach Lavon Capers. "We had a chance to win in the fourth quarter."
However, the Bulldogs' chances vanished in three fourth-quarter Cougars touchdowns. Brown broke the tie with 11:19 left to play in the game on a 14-yard TD run. Cole, who set up Brown's scoring run with a 54-yard sprint to the Bulldogs' 16, put Lawrence County up 28-14 with a 46 yard run with 7:18 left in the game.
"We can be explosive and we had explosive players make big plays tonight," said Lawrence County coach Jaymie Palmer.
Vancleave responded behind Cade Posey, who caught two passes from Parker Bourque for 37 yards to set up David Capers' 1 yard plunge with 5:32 left in regulation, cutting the Cougars lead to 28-21.
Lawrence County answered when Brown's two-yard TD dive put the Cougars up 35-21, with 2:22 left.
"They made the plays in the fourth quarter," Capers said.
Nunnery added 113 yards on 12 carries and scored on a 25 yard scramble with 7:23 left in the first quarter to open up the game's scoring. Cole had 103 yards rushing and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 45 yards.
"I was getting tired," Brown said. "You have to push and push. But, the offensive line and fullback opened the holes for me and I hit the holes."
Capers said the Cougars speed on offense was the difference after halftime.
"They are a very good team," Capers said. "They have some guys who can break it. Their speed took over in the game."
Posey led Vancleave with eight rushes for 45 yards and a 3-yard TD run in the first half for a 14-14 tie. He had four catches for 113 yards, including a 68-yard reception that set up Vancleave's first score, a 2-yard Bourque quarterback keeper.
Jesse Waltman led the Vancleave defense with eight stops. Jakel Green added six stops for the Bulldogs.