Hattiesburg High head football coach Danny Nowell said Thursday that his team needed to get over the nerves of playing in a big game early in the Tigers region 3-6A match up with crosstown rival Oak Grove. That's exactly what the Tigers did against the Warriors Friday.
Hattiesburg received the opening kickoff, and the Tigers were forced to punt after a quick opening drive. However, the Warriors muffed the punt, and Hattiesburg's Tony Bridges recovered. The Tigers then drove down the field and scored on a three yard touchdown run by Jamal Hatten, putting Hattiesburg ahead 7-0 with 8:49 left in the first quarter. "I thought tonight (Friday) even though it was a big game in a big setting, I thought we started off playing with some fire and playing the way we needed to start the game," Nowell said after Hattiesburg's 21-14 win over Oak Grove.
Hattiesburg held a 7-0 lead heading into halftime. However, it looked as though the Tigers kept the momentum into the third quarter. Hattiesburg quarterback Tristen Walley hit Brandon Acker for a 45-yard touchdown with 6:37 left in the third quarter giving the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
But the last few minutes of the third quarter belonged to the Warriors. Oak Grove quarterback Kirk McCarty connected with Schyller Dieuveille on a nineteen-yard strike with 1:46 left in the third quarter to pull the Warriors within a touchdown. Just over a minute later, Johnathan McNair ran one in from twelve yards out to tie the game at fourteen. Nowell said, "Everything they gave us in the first half, in a way, we kind of gave back to them in the second half."
After Oak Grove and Hattiesburg scored a combined 21 points in the third quarter, both defenses stepped up in the fourth. Neither side was able to get into the end zone for almost fourteen minutes of the fourth quarter. With 1:08 left in the fourth quarter, Tony Bridges gave Hattiesburg a 21-14 lead with a two yard touchdown run. Hattiesburg's defense then stepped up to keep the Warriors out of the end zone the remaining 1:08 of the game. "I was really proud of the defense. I thought they fought and battled all night long just like they have all year, and our offense found a way to get a score late for us to win."
The win gives Hattiesburg an 8-2 record heading into the Tigers final game of the season at home against Brandon. Oak Grove falls to 7-3 with the loss heading into the Warriors season finale at Natchez.
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