LAUREL, MS (WDAM) -
LAUREL _ A few minutes into taking a stab at explaining how his Laurel High School Golden Tornadoes came away with an overtime win over archrival West Jones High School, Todd Breland shifted gears.
“What a game,” Breland said. “It was every bit the game we thought it would be.”
After being dominated in the first half, Laurel came back from a 17-7 second-half deficit, tying the game in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard run by senior Zias Perryman.
Then in overtime, safety DeAnthony Walker blocked a West Jones field goal attempt, setting up Perryman’s bruising, not-to-be-denied 10-yard touchdown run on Laurel’s first snap of the extra period as the Golden Tornadoes pulled off a 23-17 Region 3-5A victory at Blair Stadium.
“We were just able to overcome everything (Friday) night,” Breland said. “It’s big.”
The outcome left Laurel (5-3, 4-0) alone atop the Region 3-5A standings after the Golden Tornadoes won their fourth consecutive game.
West Jones (6-2, 3-1) saw a six-game winning streak snapped as the Mustang defense surrendered its first points in four games.
“What it came down to was that we didn’t make a play when we had to, and they did,” West Jones coach Scott Pierson said. “Really, I think that game’s a toss-up game, going back and forth, and when they needed to make a play, they did, and when we needed to, we just came up short.”
Initially, it was West Jones making the plays and rocking the Golden Tornadoes on their heels.
On the third play of the game, sophomore quarterback Xavier Evans’ first pass attempt went straight into the hands of defensive end Detorurean Crosby, who returned the gift 30 yards for a touchdown just a minute, 13 seconds, into the game.
“I don’t know how much that interception had upon our psyche, but we stayed behind the chains and just seemed like we could never get it in motion,” Breland said.
Laurel managed just one first down and gained 46 yards total offense over the first two quarters.
Yet, the Golden Tornadoes trailed the Mustangs by only 14-7 at halftime, thanks in large part to a sturdy defensive effort of their own and a nifty bit of broken-field running by Levi Walker.
The senior cornerback/running back gathered in a lined punt at the Mustangs’ 43-yard, cut to his left and sped down the sideline to tie the score 7-7 on the first play of the second quarter.
West Jones went back on top with just 17 seconds left in the half.
A 25-yard punt by Laurel set up the Mustangs at the Golden Tornadoes’ 40-yard line. A 28-yard run by quarterback Alan Follis set up West Jones inside Laurel’s 10-yard line. Two plays later, Follis found Tajrick Randolph with a 5-yard scoring toss.
On its second possession of the second half, the Mustangs extended the lead to 17-7 on Walker Thompson’s 40-yard field goal with 5:33 left in the period.
But just when it seemed West Jones was set to slowly squeeze the gusto and the game from the Golden Tornadoes, Laurel turned in a play that turned around its night.
Evans, who had returned a few weeks back from an early-season high ankle sprain to take over the starting quarterback duties, hooked up with former starting quarterback Sinclair Ulmer on a 50-yard catch-and-run that brought Laurel from its 18-yard line to West Jones’ 32.
Evans ripped off a 12-yard run before the drive eventually stalled and Laurel settled for a 29-yard field goal from William Mora to cut the deficit to 17-10 with 2:56 left in the third quarter.
On its next possession, Evans ripped off a 34-yard run and a pass interference call on West Jones brought the Golden Tornadoes to the Mustangs’ 20-yard line. Perryman capped the 80-yard drive with a 20-yard burst up the middle that tied the score 17-17 with 8:44 to play.
Laurel never threatened again, but twice West Jones could not convert third-and-1 near midfield and also failed on a third-and-3 at the 45. The Mustangs wound up punting all three times.
“We had third-and-1, twice, when we were just about in field-goal range, and we don’t get it,” Pierson said.
The game went into overtime and West Jones had the ball first and got no farther than the 5-yard line. Thompson came in for a 22-yard field goal attempt, but Walker came swooping in from the left side to get a piece of the football.
On Laurel’s first play, Perryman bulled over the right side, disappearing into a throng before reappearing with a dive that took him over the goal line.
“It was just about getting the mo, getting the momentum back on our side,” Laurel offensive tackle Charles Cross said. “This was real big for us. Playing between the bricks, it’s a blessing.”
Pierson said he expects the Mustangs to bounce back.
“This is a building block and it’s about how we respond now,” Pierson said. “It was one of those games where we got our character tested, and now we’re going to find out next week what type of team we’ve got, what type of leaders we‘ve got.”