HURLEY -- Heading into Friday's 8-4A showdown at H.D. Shirley Field, St. Stanislaus coach Bill Conides told his kids that if they could get back-to-back stops and score off those turnovers, they'd beat the grind-it-out East Central Hornets.
"We were hoping to do it in the first quarter but we ended up waiting until the third and fourth quarters," Conides said after the 49-35 victory. "Then that was it. Ballgame."
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ECHS coach Seth Smith took credit for the late turnovers post-game, saying he was trying to score too quickly and went away from the team's repetitive yet effective ground-and-pound offense.
"We were having success moving the ball on the ground. I got a little greedy trying to score quick and we get a pick-six and then back to back turnovers," Seth Smith said. "You will never beat a state championship caliber team like them turning the ball over. Ever. And they are an excellent football team."
Following a St. Stanislaus (5-3, 3-0) fumble near midfield late in the third quarter, the Hornets (5-3, 2-1), trailing 35-28, looked for a quick strike. Glenn Evans threw a quick pass to Tony Brown on the right side, but the receiver was popped as soon as he caught the ball. SSC defensive back J.D. Rutherford scooped up the loose ball and sprinted 61 yards down the visitor's sideline untouched to put the Rockachaws ahead 42-28.
On the ensuing possession, the Hornets drove the field and were once again threatening when Tayler Trapani intercepted a pass at the Rockachaws' 7. SSC quickly mounted a seven-play counter and scored on a 24-yard screen to running back Andrew Trapani to put SSC ahead 49-28 with just over 6 minutes remaining.
East Central pieced together a 79-yard drive of its own but with only 92 seconds remaining SSC ran out the clock to take the driver's seat in the region.
"This was a huge test for us," Conides said. "Going on the road, driving an hour and a half away to play a really good football team. To us, this is like the second round of the playoffs."
The Rockachaws had a lot of success on halfback screens Friday. Running backs Cahill Marlowe and Andrew Trapani combined for five receptions for 89 yards. Trapani scored on second-half receptions of 16 and 24 yards, and Marlowe scored a late touchdown in the second quarter on a 31 yard pass down the home sideline.
"That's a play we've gotten away from," Conides said of the halfback screens. "Because we had so much success with it last year, teams were starting to gear up for it. But something in my mind early in the week said I think we're going to go back to it. We hadn't run it since Noxubee County (in the 2014 4A championship game)."
Quarterback Myles Brennan had another strong night, completing 19 of 28 passes for 335 yards and five touchdowns. Corbin Blanchard and Chase Rogers led SSC with four receptions for 83 and 66 yards respectively.
Brennan's other two touchdowns went to Darius Pittman on a 23-yard strike and Harrison Brewer on a 9-yard.
Senior running back A.J. Davis shouldered East Central's offensive work load on senior night, carrying the ball 52 times for 381 yards and four touchdowns.
"If it's working, we're going to run it," Smith said. "It was working and I've said it time and time again, he's a tough young man and we're glad he's on our team."
Evans rounded out East Central's scoring with a 1-yard touchdown.
East Central will close out the regular season with road games at Bay High and Vancleave over the next two weeks. St. Stanislaus hosts Moss Point before traveling to Pass Christian for the regular season finale.