During his sophomore and junior seasons as the West Harrison quarterback, Dayln Anderson learned how to handle defeat all too well.
As a senior at Harrison Central, Anderson and the rest of the Red Rebels are suddenly winning in impressive fashion.
Anderson connected with senior receiver Brandon Smith on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 23.8 seconds remaining to hand the Red Rebels a 17-10 victory over St. Martin and improve to 3-0 in Region 4-6A competition on Friday.
After going a total of 2-20 over two seasons at West Harrison, Anderson has led the Red Rebels to an overall mark of 6-1 and a six-game winning streak.
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“It feels good,” Anderson said with a grin Friday night. “I’ve got a team. I love it.”
Harrison Central drove 80 yards in about 2 minutes for the game-winning score Friday night.
After hitting Smith for 15 yards and a first down, Anderson connected with a wide-open Smith as he streaked toward the back right corner of the end zone for the decisive touchdown.
“There was man coverage and I seen the little dude on him,” Anderson said. “I just picked my man over his. That’s what I do in crunch time.
“He had a lot of space. He did what he wanted to do and got open.”
Anderson completed 11 of 14 passes for 233 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Harrison Central coach Casey Cain hoped that Anderson’s arrival would breathe new life into an offense that’s struggled with consistency over the last couple of seasons. The athletic senior has lived up to expectations so far.
“He’s been good for us,” Cain said. “We’re glad to have him. This is kind of what we’ve been wanting to do all along. He helps us in every way. He can run the ball and throw the ball. Our O-line does a good job of blocking and giving him time.”
The first man to congratulate Smith after his game-winning touchdown was fellow receiver Jacobi Moore, a sophomore who is quickly developing into one of the best receivers on the Coast. He pulled in eight passes for 192 yards and a touchdown against the Yellow Jackets.
Moore’s touchdown came on Harrison Central’s first possession when Anderson’s pass was tipped 40 yards down field by a St. Martin defensive back and landed in the 6-foot-3 sophomore’s hands for a 62-yard scoring play.
“I really thought they were going to intercept it when I saw the ball in the air,” Smith said. “I was close so I grabbed it and scored.”
The trio of Anderson, Moore and Smith have combined to give Harrison Central one of the more potent passing attacks in South Mississippi.
“We’ve got a good chemistry,” Smith said. “We always work on it in practice and after practice to make sure it’s good for Friday.
“Last we season, we ran a Wing-T. We’ve got a quarterback that can run and throw. I knew it was going to be a big season.”
Harrison Central pushed its lead to 10-3 with 10:54 remaining on a 23-yard field goal by Charles Mayet, but St. Martin answered quickly on an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Elijah Washington to tie it at 10-10.
St. Martin pushed the ball into Harrison Central territory on the possession prior to Harrison Central’s game-winning touchdown, but failed finish the drive just as it had all night.
“We couldn’t put it together,” St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead said. “We had bad snaps, dropped passes, missed passes, ran wrong plays. We were on the same page and they have a great defense.”
The Harrison Central defense hasn’t allowed an offensive touchdown in the last eight quarters after shutting out Biloxi 21-0 on Sept. 28.
Harrison Central will now look ahead to a crucial contest against Gulfport (6-1, 3-0) on Oct. 12 with the Admirals having won seven of the last eight games in the series.
“We’re ready,” Anderson said. “We know all of them. We’re friends with them and everything. When we get on that field, it won’t be friendly no more.”
St. Martin dropped to 4-3 and 1-2 in region play despite getting 77 yards rushing from senior quarterback Mileon Grahm and 76 from senior running back Ham McGee.