High School Sports

Unbeaten Pearl ends Hancock’s historic state playoff run

Hancock High running back Marquis Cherry
Hancock High running back Marquis Cherry jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

PEARL Pearl jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead and never looked back in its 41-3 victory over Hancock on Friday night in round one of the Class 6A state playoffs.

The unbeaten Pirates (14-0) will host Meridian (7-6) in the 6A State semifinals next Friday. Hancock finished its season at 10-3.

Pearl took control early and never looked back.

Jared Smithhart connected with Johnquarise Patterson for a 54-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the game. Tylan Knight scored on a five-yard run as the Pirates took an early 14-0 lead.

Hancock responded with a 66-yard drive, that resulted in a 36-yard field goal by Elliot Nolan. It was the Hawks’ only points of the game. Marquis Cherry had 25 of team-high 75 yards rushing on the drive.

Any momentum the Hawks had gained, however, was nullified on Pearl’s next drive when Smithhard connected with Dylan Kelly on a 50-yard touchdown pass for a 21-3 Pirates halftime lead.

Kelly scored on an 11-yard ran and Smithhart added an eight-yard touchdown run, increasing the Pirates’ lead to 35-3.

The Pirates’ final score came on a fumble recovery in the end zone to complete the game’s scoring.

Hancock, however, had plenty of bright spots despite the lopsided season-ending defeat. The Hawks recorded double-digit victories in a season, as well as record a state playoff victory last year. It was only the third time a Hancock team accomplished both. In the past 26 years, Hancock only made the playoff three times: 1991, 2014 and this year.

“I’m proud of our kids on their season,” Hawks first-year coach Neil Lollar said. “We knew Pearl was going to be tough and they were.”