PASCAGOULA - The Pascagoula football team came through when the game was on the line Friday night to earn its first win over Hattiesburg since 1994 and stay on pace to contend for a Region 4-5A title.
The Panthers, who had lost seven straight games to the Tigers, won 21-18 by stopping Hattiesburg on 4th-and-2 at the Pascagoula 35 with 1:54 remaining. Hattiesburg sophomore Fabian Franklin was limited to just 1 yard on the play with Pascagoula senior cornerback Cameron Shoemo coming up to make first contact and wrap up the running back.
The entire Pascagoula sideline, including head coach Lewis Sims, jumped for joy when the defense came up with the big stop.
"They had (three receivers) to the right side and I was basically by myself (on the left)," Shoemo said. "The running back came my way. I came up and helped make the tackle. I wrapped around his legs and rolled how coach teaches us."
Fabian missed a couple of late drives with an injury, but re-entered the game for the final drive to try to help the Tigers rally. He finished with 21 carries for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Hattiesburg turned it over on downs in Pascagoula territory on its final two possessions of the game.
Pascagoula improved to 6-2 and 4-0 while Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance watched with frustration as his team dropped to 6-3 and 2-2.
"We're making it a whole tougher than it should be," Vance said. "We're doing a lot to help other people and not ourselves, but I think we're as good as we anybody lost to (in the region.)"
Pascagoula's lone score of the second half proved to be decisive with Granlund Torjusen running it in from 6 yards out on third-and-goal with 5:26 remaining. He faked the handoff to running back Reginald Hunter, turned to the left and ran untouched into the end zone.
"It's a big win for the program," Sims said. "It's a big win for these young men who have been through a lot of trials and tribulations and injuries. They worked their tails off to be where they are. I can't be more proud of the effort they're giving."
Hunter, a junior, was again the most productive player on offense for the Panthers. He ran 21 times for 133 yards and a touchdown.
On the first play from scrimmage in the game, Hunter found the edge on the right side of the line and out-ran the Hattiesburg secondary for a 58-yard touchdown.
"Reggie showed why he's a special player," Sims said.
Hunter, who holds a scholarship offer from Louisville, eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark Friday night.
Hattiesburg answered Hunter's touchdown quickly, going 55 yards on four plays with Franklin getting in the end zone on a 26-yard run.
Hattiesburg failed to covert on the two-point try to preserve the Pascagoula lead at 7-6 with 10:05 left in the first quarter. It was the first of three failed two-point conversions for the Tigers.
After Pascagoula recovered a Hattiesburg muffed punt at the Tigers' 13, the Panthers found the end zone three plays later on a 9-yard toss from Torjusen to Cartreal Davison at the 2:31 mark of the first quarter.
Pascagoula led 14-6 at the half, but Hattiesburg answered with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns - A 7-yard run by quarterback Julian Conner at the 7:27 mark and a 3-yard Conner pass to Anthony Dunn with 2:17 left in the quarter.
"That's a testament to (Hattiesburg)," Sims said. "Give coach Vance credit.Those guys are a heck of a team. They're athletic, strong and quick. We were just able to score last."
Pascagoula was also helped by the return of senior defensive back/receiver Jakwaize Walker, who missed three games with a lower leg injury.