PASCAGOULA – The “Battle of the Cats” is back in the hands of the Moss Point Tigers.
Moss Point toppled Pascagoula 18-13 Friday night at War Memorial Stadium to end a five-game skid for the Tigers in one of the state's most intense rivalries.
“It feels real good,” said a smiling Romello Leggins, the Moss Point quarterback. “This is my last year. I feel like we did our thing, showed up and showed out tonight.”
Pascagoula had dominated the series of late, shutting out the Tigers 28-0 in 2014 and 13-0 in 2015.
When senior running back Omni Wells ran 19 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 6-6 with 8:47 left in the first half, it ended a run of 12 consecutive quarters where Moss Point hadn't scored against Pascagoula.
While the final score indicated a tight contest, it was Moss Point who shook off the early 6-0 deficit and took control of the contest in the second half.
Moss Point put the ball in the hands of Wells all night and he proved up to the task with 30 carries for 140 yards and one touchdown.
“He was the man,” Moss Point coach Willie Brown said. “We knew we had to get him the ball. He ran the ball and he also punted the ball. He cramped up a little bit and we had another back that cramped up. We were with no backs and we had to throw a little bit.”
Moss Point has relied almost exclusively on its rushing attack since Brown arrived there in 2013, but senior quarterback Romello Leggins showed that he could be a productive passer.
“We came into the game and knew we had to throw the football,” Brown said. “We worked on it all summer. It's no secret now. Folks are going to get ready for us to throw the football.”
Leggins finished 6-of-10 passing the ball for 54 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Pascagoula, which recovered an onside kick to start the game, scored on its opening drive with senior quarterback Granlund Torjusen running nine yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead with 10:15 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers' offense proved stagnant after the early surge, due in part to an injury to senior running back Reginald Hunter, who hobbled off in the first two minutes of the second half. Hunter finished with 10 carries for 70 yards.
Pascagoula's other star senior running back, Javarous Walker, did not play in Friday's game. His head coach, Lewis Sims, didn't give a reason for his absence after the game.
“In a rivalry game, anything can happen,” Sims said. “I thought Moss Point out-played us. They made the fewer amount of mistakes. They took advantage of their opportunities. Hat off to their staff, hats off to coach Brown and the whole entire Tiger nation.”
The two teams entered halftime tied at 6-6.
Moss Point took the lead at 12-6 when Leggins hit senior Amari Williamson for a 10-yard touchdown toss with 3:59 left in the third quarter
On the following kickoff, the Tigers managed to chase down the ball and regain possession.
Eight plays later, Leggins connected with freshman Jonavan Jackson from 14 yards out to make it 18-6 with 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The game was very sloppy at times and the two teams exchanged fumbles midway through fourth quarter.
Pascagoula managed to piece together a short drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by Adam Panni with 2:12 remaining.
Pascagoula's onside kick failed and Moss Point ran out the clock for the win.
Brown was doused with Gatorade while the Moss Point players and fans celebrated a crucial win for the program.
“We always talk about this game at the house,” Wells said. “We've been talking about this one forever. It's great to come out with the W.”
Moss Point will host Gautier next Friday while Pascagoula will host Ocean Springs.