Lance Mancuso disappeared into a sea of white and blue Friday night.
Clutching the golden football trophy in the inaugural Port City Bowl Classic at Gulfport’s Milner Stadium, Jefferson Davis County coach was swarmed by celebrating Jaguars after the consolidated Bassfield and Prentiss football team rallied from an early deficit to beat Harrison Central 25-10.
“I think it’s important in our process of bringing these two groups together. Really proud of how they fell behind 10-0 and didn’t hold their heads down. I think that bonded us together a little bit,” said Mancuso, who helped lead Bassfield to five titles before the merger. “We have a long, long way to go. Coach Cain has a good football team.
“This is just the first step in many of bringing these schools together.”
The Jaguars (1-0) fell behind early after HCHS kicker Sam Quick converted a 28-yard field goal and new quarterback Chase Jones connected with Isaac Harris on a 32-yard field goal.
Then the tide changed. With 1:44 remaining in the first half, JDCHS marched down the field with Malik Shorts scoring on a 6-yard run.
Jafharis McKines broke free for a 50-yard touchdown down the visitors’ sideline late in the third quarter, putting the Jaguars ahead 13-10.
Outside of the big run, HCHS did a good job of containing the Jaguars’ constant ground attack. The only problem was the Red Rebels (0-1) couldn’t get the big stop to get off the field — and the Jaguars capitalized.
“I thought we played pretty good defense to come back out after that rain delay,” HCHS coach Casey Cain said of the lengthy stoppage in the third. “We gave up the one big play right before the half but I thought we played good. In the second half, I just think we played a lot on defense tonight.”
The Jaguars broke the game open in the fourth with a James Washington 1-yard run through the middle and a 15-yard score by McKines with 3:43 remaining.
“I just think it was the never-quit attitude that we have always had,” Mancuso said. “Now everybody is buying into that. They understand it’s four quarters and we tell our guys don’t look at the scoreboard until the end of the game. We’ll worry about that when the 48th minute runs off. They’re starting to learn that and play. I’m really proud of the process so far.”
Jones finished 9 of 16 in his debut replacing Tavis Williams at quarterback. He was the victim of several drops and constant pressure, finishing with 75 yards and the one touchdown.
“Playing quarterback in a spread offense can be challenging,” Cain said. “I thought he handled it well at times but others it was just the pressure of the situation. They played man-to-man all night and loaded the box so there was a free guy hitting him almost every play.”
Keon Moore finished the game with just 63 yards, well below his average from a year ago.
“Everyone is going to load the box, make us throw the football and try to stop Keon,” Cain said. “We have to be able to loosen them up a little bit and beat some guys in the passing game. If not, we’re going to have trouble.”
JDCHS running back Ricky Griffith suffered a severe dislocated ankle late in the third quarter, but he waved to fans as he was loaded into an ambulance.
Harrison Central returns to action Friday at Stone.