LAUREL, MS (WDAM)- The Laurel High golden tornadoes overcame three first half fumble during Friday night's game against Northeast Jones and defeated the tigers 35-14 at home to capture the region 4A-5 regular season title.
Vrizil Tillman led the way for the tornadoes (9-1, 5-0) with two touchdowns; one from the 5-yard line, and one on a 70-yard scamper in which tiger defenders could not bring the junior running back down. Tillman received a hand-off, sprinted to the right side, and it seemed as though Northeast defenders may have lost him behind the offensive line.
The next thing tiger defenders saw, after attempting to arm-tackle him, was Tillman bolting down the sideline for the score. Besides Tillman, three different tornadoes provided touchdowns, including senior quarterback Dontrell Pruit, senior wide out Justin Mack and junior wide out Chris Horne.
Before the opening kick-off, but the sidelines and the respective fan bases electrified the stadium, jumping, shouting and cheering. It looked as though the tigers (9-2, 4-1) would be the ones to strike first. The offense, led by junior quarterback James Ayers, drove all the way down to the tornado 5-yard line on the tiger's second drive.
But the tornado defense stifled the tiger attack, and Northeast settled for a field goal. On the ensuing Laurel drive, a snap bounced off of Pruitt's shoulder pad and the tigers recovered inside tornado territory, but the tornadoes yielded the same result: three points.
Trailing 6-0, Pruitt led the offense inside tiger territory and connected with Horne on a long pass play, giving the home tornadoes their first lead 7-6. Pruitt provided Laurel's next score on a designed quarterback keeper to the right side on fourth down to give the golden tornadoes a 14-6 lead. Tillman scored his first touchdown of the night a couple of drives later, and it seemed as though the tigers were down-and-out early.
Ayers provided the only highlight of the ball game for the visiting tigers as he completed a long pass play down the middle for Northeast's first touchdown. The following two-point conversion cut the deficit to 21-14 with only 23 seconds left before halftime, and the tigers seemingly entered the locker room with new life.
The tornadoes, however, had other plans, and scored on their first two possessions of the second half. The first came on Tillman's long run, and the next came on what seemed like a harmless short pass to Mack. He caught about a ten yard pass on the side-line, but avoided one arm-tackle, side-stepped the next and took off for pay dirt to give his team their final tally of 35.
Aside from the long pass play before half time, Ayers was either avoiding tacklers or on the ground most of the night. On one particular play, Ayers took a hard shot and camp up shaking off his right arm. Obviously frustrated, he paced up and down the sideline for much of the closing minutes, but kept telling his team, "Don't worry, y'all. We'll see'em again."