There were plenty of questions heading into Friday night’s Region 4-6A showdown at Brett Favre Field. How would the upstart Hancock Hawks under first-year coach Neil Lollar handle the moment?
Could the Hawks embrace senior night’s energy, and in doing so, secure the team’s first home playoff game since 1990?
Or would the visiting Biloxi Indians, desperate to remain in the 4-6A playoff picture, play spoiler?
The game was never comfortably in hand, but HHS did just enough to pull out a 21-19 victory.
“It’s a big one, especially to get it for the seniors. We worked hard and got it done,” said junior linebacker Trenton Ladner, who was born 10 years after the Hawks’ last home playoff contest. “... There’s no feeling like it.”
The good vibes were tested late, however, after Biloxi’s Riko Carter intercepted a pass and returned it to Hancock’s 23. Facing a 21-13 deficit, Biloxi (3-7, 3-3) quickly pieced together a seven-play drive that ended on a 10-yard touchdown from quarterback Brodie King to Dajour Brown in the left side of the end zone with 36 seconds remaining.
Forced to go for 2, Biloxi spread out Hancock with an empty backfield. King, only one game removed from his return from a broken fibula in the season opener, darted around the right side of the line and leaped for the end zone. The officials ruled King landed short of the goal line — contrary to the arguments coming from the visitor’s sideline — and threw two flags against Biloxi on the play. HHS recovered the ensuing onside kick, ending the Indians’ threat.
“We thought they would spread us out. Brodie is their playmaker, so we knew it would be in his hands,” Ladner said. “We just had to bow up, make a stop and win the ballgame.”
Added Lollar: “The defense did a great job all night. We put ourselves behind the eight ball a couple times with the defense having their backs against the wall because of turnovers, but I thought they did a good job. They responded to some adversity which gave us a chance on offense.”
The Indians actually struck first Friday when King connected with Jervin Smith for a 7-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. HHS (8-2, 5-1) immediately responded, scoring at the first quarter buzzer on a 7-yard run by Marquis Cherry.
After the two teams traded empty possessions, BHS pulled ahead with 1:53 remaining in the half when King found Jordan Montgomery behind the Hawks’ secondary for a 61-yard strike. Biloxi missed the extra point to lead 13-7.
With 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter Hancock reclaimed the lead, 14-13, on a 5-yard run around the left side by Ladner.
Midway through the fourth, Cherry broke free for a 63-yard run, setting up a 2-yard score one play later. The field-flipping score extended Hancock’s lead to 21-13.
Cherry finished with a game-high 184 yards and two scores on 19 carries.
Biloxi’s Harrell paced the Indians with 132 yards on 31 carries. King, the Sun Herald’s reigning Player of the Week, completed 17 of 25 passes for 185 yards and three scores.
“I saw an official who every time we made a play to get back in the game threw a flag on us. Put that in the paper. Quote me on that. I want someone to say something about it,” Indians coach Bobby Hall said. “I’m proud of my kids. They played their hearts out, but there was one guy on the crew tonight who was not going to let us win this game tonight and he succeeded.”