The Pascagoula panthers took a late defensive stand, turning it into a short touchdown drive to hold off Pearl River Central 31-20 in Region 4-5A Friday, winning on homecoming.
With the win, Pascagoula (5-4, 4-1) remains in a four-way tie for the top of the region, along with Picayune (8-1), Stone County (7-2) and Hattiesburg (7-3).
“This sets up a showdown in Picayune,” said Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims. Picayune’s lone loss in the region is a 38-31 overtime loss to Stone County Oct. 14. “The next two weeks are going to make a difference in the playoffs.”
For the Blue Devils (4-5, 2-3), the loss puts their playoff chances on life support as Pearl River Central closes the season against Hattiesburg and Picayune.
“We have to win the next two games,” said PRC coach Larry Dolan. “Those are two of the top teams in our conference. But if you upset them, you never know what will happen.”
With under 4:30 left in the game, trailing Pascagoula 25-20, and facing a fourth-and-nine from their own 39, Dolan decided to go for the first down. Blue Devils Wyatt Davis hit Seth Orgeron in a seam over the middle for what appeared to be a first down at the Pascagoula 40. However, an illegal formation penalty on Pearl River negated the play and set up a fourth-and-15.
Again, Dolan left his offense on the field. This time Davis fired toward Diante Lenoir, who had five catches for 70 yards. Despite pushing and shoving between Lenoir and the Pascagoula defensive back, a penalty was not called as the ball fell incomplete. After the play, an unsportsmanlike penalty on Pearl River moved the ball deep into Blue Devils’ territory with Pascagoula taking over at the 19. On the fourth play of the drive, Javarous Walker sprinted in from 11 yards out to give the Panthers an 11-point lead.
Behind Davis, Pearl River launched one last attempt to pull out the win, driving 64 yards on nine plays, with Davis connecting with Louis Reece on a 22-yard pass to bring the ball to the Panthers 9. However, four plays later the drive would end at the Pascagoula 3 on an incomplete pass.
“We had momentum and had a chance to take the lead,” Dolan said, “but we couldn’t get a call to go our way.”
“The defensive stand allowed us to get the ball back,” Lewis said. “When we got the score, we went up by 11, making it a two-score game.”
Pascagoula used a couple of mistakes in the Pearl River punting game to take an early 13-0 lead. After Pearl River’s initial punt went only 11 yards, the Panthers set up for their second drive at the Blue Devils 26. It would take the Panthers only five plays to score on a 3-yard Walker run.
Pearl River’s ensuing possession resulted in a three-and-out. However, the Blue Devils mishandled the snap, which was picked up by homecoming king defensive lineman James Jackson, who rumbled into the end zone from 30 yards out. Pascagoula would remain in front throughout the score.
Reginald Hunter and Walker combined for over 200 yards, with Hunter carrying the ball 19 times for 127 yards and a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a 25-13 lead. Hunter ran for 39 yards late in the second quarter to set up Delvin Abney’s 16-yard scoring run. Walker added 93 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Davis led the Blue Devils, hitting 15-of-24 of his passes for 170 yards and a touchdown pass of 13-yards to AJ Banks to bring Pearl River to within six, 19-13, just before the end of the first half. He also scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. Reece scored the Blue Devils other touchdown on a 1-yard plunge to make the score 25-20 Pascagoula.
In addition to catching five passes, Lenoir led the Blue Devils on the ground with 59 yards on eight carries and picked off a pass.