Hattiesburg took control of a back-and-forth contest in the fourth quarter to grab a crucial 41-37 victory over Picayune Friday night at Lee-Triplett Stadium.
The Tigers took advantage of a late Picayune turnover, allowing junior quarterback Jarod Conner to throw an 11-yard touchdown toss to D’andre Humbles with 2:31 remaining to regain the lead.
Picayune responded by moving into Hattiesburg territory, but turned it over on downs with 40 seconds remaining to put the game to rest.
“We just knew at some point we’d have to get a stop or a turnover,” Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said. “We were showing our defense early on that we trusted in them and believed in them. I think that was huge down the stretch.”
Hattiesburg improved to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in Region 4-5A. Picayune dropped to 7-2 and 4-1.
Conner was outstanding all night at quarterback for Hattiesburg, completing 12 of 23 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns. He was also the best option on the ground, running 12 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Conner came through in the clutch on Hattiesburg’s final drive, hitting Humbles for a 40-yard completion in a 4th-and-7 situation and it was 4th-and-4 when he connected with Humbles again for the winning touchdown.
“(Conner) has been that way for us all year,” Vance said. “He’s a great guy, great kid, great football player.”
Humbles finished with four receptions for 118 yards and one score.
“(Conner is) a great football player and we knew that going in,” Lee said. “If we could have just made two or more plays, but that’s the way the game is. When you play teams like this that’s the way it’s going to be. Even if you’re good it’s still going to come down to one or two plays. You can probably name six or eight that it came down to.”
Anderson had another big game of carrying the ball for the Maroon Tide with 36 carries for 325 yards and four touchdowns.
However, it was Anderson who fumbled the ball late at the end of a 20-yard run prior to Hattiesburg’s winning drive.
“We wouldn’t have been where we were without him,” Lee said. “I know he’s given us a great effort every night. I hate that he fumbled for him almost more than I do for me.”
Picayune produced touchdowns on its first three drives of the second half appeared to be in great shape with 8:24 remaining when Brian Taylor ran 38 yards for a touchdown to take a 37-28 lead.
Hattiesburg had another quick answer on a five-play drive that finished with an 11-yard touchdown toss from Conner to Raheem Willis, cutting the Picayune lead to 37-34 after a missed extra point.
Quick pace early
The game started out at a quick pace with Hattiesburg and Picayune trading touchdowns on the first two possessions as Anderson ran 2 yards for a Picayune touchdown and Conner threw a 41-yard touchdown toss to Jaylynn Page.
Hattiesburg led 7-6 thanks to a missed extra point by the Maroon Tide with 6:00 left in the first quarter.
The Picayune defense managed to get a stop its next time on the field, allowing the offense to take the first lead of the game at 14-7 after Anderson scored from 34 yards out and added the 2-point conversion with 10:40 left in the first half.
Hattiesburg answered quickly to tie the game at 14-14 on a 44-yard touchdown toss from Conner to Dshun Mitchell with 8:48 left in the second quarter.
Picayune worked 6:55 off the clock on the following drive and regained the lead at 17-14 on a 22-yard field goal by Austin Samples.
Hattiesburg had another rapid response on back-to-back long pass plays from Conner to Darius Ruffin and Humbles, setting up a 9-yard touchdown run by Conner to take the lead at 21-17 with 39 seconds left in the first half.
Picayune will travel to Gautier next week while Hattiesburg will host Long Beach.