PASCAGOULA - After coming up with stops in crucial situations all night long, the Pascagoula defense made one last stand in the fourth quarter to lift the Panthers to a 12-7 victory over Picayune Friday night.
A failed pitch in the backfield resulted in a Pascagoula fumble with 6:59 remaining, giving Picayune the ball at the Pascagoula 42.
Picayune gradually pushed the ball inside the Pascagoula 10, but Skylar Bowman's pass in the end zone was too deep for his target on fourth-and-goal from the 11 to end the Maroon Tide's rally with 1:57 remaining.
Pascagoula (7-3, 5-1) ran out the clock to earn the No. 2 seed in Region 4-6A and a first-round home playoff game.
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"This is huge, especially against such a fine team traditionally like Picayune," Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims said. "(Picayune) is extremely young, but they battle. They're tough. I'm proud that our guys were tougher a little bit longer.
"We were able to make a big defensive stand. Our defense played tremendously well. I can't say enough about how well our defense played."
Picayune's leading rusher, Josh Littles, tried to give it a go Friday night despite an injury, but he left the game midway through the second drive of the game for the Maroon Tide.
"I thought Josh would be able to go, but he wasn't able to go," Picayune coach Dodd Lee said. "We were playing people out of position. We were trying to get plays in with people that had never played certain positions. It was hard, but we had our chances. Give (Pascagoula) credit. They held on and were able to win. Defensively, they played hard."
Vyron Brown led Picayune (5-5, 4-2) with 13 carries for 66 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown run with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter.
"We made a few mistakes, but that happens," Lee said. "I thought our effort was great in the second half."
Pascagoula went up 2-0 after one quarter thanks to a safety. It was a mishandled exchange in the backfield that led to Bowman recovering the fumble in the end zone to avoid a Pascagoula touchdown.
Griffin Sublett added a 29-yard field goal for Pascagoula to make it 5-0 at the half.
Pascagoula stretched the lead to 12-0 on a powerful 15-yard run for a touchdown by Reginald Hunter Jr. with 1:53 left in the third quarter.
It was an impressive run with Hunter working his way through a host of Picayune defenders on the way to the end zone.
"I was just running real hard," Hunter said. "I executed and made the play. Coach said 'Step up,' and I stepped up."
The Pascagoula defense made several tackles in the Picayune backfield throughout Friday's contest.
The biggest play of the night on defense for Pascagoula was a forced fumble as Picayune was trying to punch it in the end zone midway through the second quarter. Pascagoula recovered the ball in the end zone, ending a 17-play drive by the Maroon Tide.
"We do what we do and let God do the rest," Pascagoula linebacker Kalishawn Booker said. "It's a blessed night. If you do your job, you know the outcome. You know the results."
Picayune, which is assured a spot in the playoffs, will host rival Pearl River Central in the regular season finale while Pascagoula will host its rival, Gautier.