PETAL, MS (WDAM) - On homecoming night at Petal High, the Petal panthers (2-3), seemingly desperate for a win after three straight losses, took advantage of numerous tiger mistakes and beat Hattiesburg (2-3) 37-14. The panther scored the first points of the night on special teams, and didn't allow much from the tigers the rest of the first half.
After Hattiesburg junior wide receiver Brandon Acker dropped a pass that would have converted a third down with just under nine minutes left in the first quarter, panthers senior linebacker John Linton broke through and blocked the tiger punt. Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Boney finished the job by scooping up the loose ball and crossing the goal line for the first score of the game.
It seemed as though things would get interesting after the tigers responded. Tiger freshman quarterback Cameron Myers lofted a long pass down the sideline that Acker brilliantly adjusted to and walked in for the tying touchdown.
But the tigers were called for illegal motion on the play, which negated the score and took some life out of the visiting team. Even so, the first quarter with Petal leading only by the one touchdown 7-0.
The tigers made their second critical mistake of the night when they decided to go for a fourth down on a short yardage situation. They tried a little trickery; lined up in the punt formation, but right as the ball snapped, sophomore defensive back Emory Ireland snuck back onto the field and took off for a pass lobbed by senior Marlin Pope.
Ireland hauled in the pass, but could not maintain possession. So, the tigers turned the ball over on downs. Petal took advantage with a 50-yard drive capped off by a Anthony Alford-to-Jessee Jackson pass in the corner for a touchdown, giving the home panthers a 14-0 lead midway through the second.
The panthers perhaps delivered the back-breaker on the ensuing tiger drive; after another Hattiesburg mistake. The tigers once again faced a short-yardage fourth-down situation. This time, head coach Trey Dickerson called an I-formation run right up the gut, and it worked. The tigers reached the first down marker, until the official threw another flag for a false start, and Hattiesburg was once again forced to punt. And once again, they didn't get it off.
The panther special teams again broke through the line, and again, it was Boney picking up the loose ball and trotting into the endzone for a touchdown. That score made it 21-0. Another Hattiesburg special team blunder occurred when the tigers were forced to punt on the ensuing drive, the snap sailed over Pope's head and into the endzone for a safety. When all the dust settled, the panthers led 30-0 at half-time.
Hattiesburg ran on to the field after half-time with a little life, driving the 80 yards in seven minutes to score a touchdown to make it 31-8, and later scored on a bomb to make it 34-14. But in the end, the tigers made too many mistakes that the panthers capitalized on said mistakes.
While the tigers will return home next week to face Meridian, the Petal panthers hit the road for the area's biggest rivalry game; at undefeated Oak Grove.