BROOKLYN, MS (WDAM) - Larry Dolan won more than his fair share of football games at Henley Field during his coaching stint at Forrest County Agricultural High School.
On Thursday night, he added another, but it marked his first as a visitor to the place he once called home.
Three years removed from guiding FCAHS to a Class 4A state championship, Dolan opened his tenure at Pearl River Central High School with a 34-29 victory over the Aggies.
"These two teams are a lot alike, these two communities," said Dolan, who had to pause for about 10 seconds when unlooked-for tears welled. "That's why I love that bunch (point to the PRC sidelines) and why I love my home over here.
"But Pearl River Central is my home now, and that's where I'm at. We've got a great group of kids, a great community and I'm proud to be there."
But it didn't come easy.
In his first game as a starting high school quarterback, Roy'Quez McNair threw two touchdown passes and scored a third on a 1-yard sneak for the Aggies (0-1).
But the Blue Devils (1-0) collected three turnovers while committing none and turned two, FCAHS fumbles into their first and last points of the game on returns by linebacker Seth Orgeron and defensive back Willie Reece.
The third turnover sealed the Aggies' fate. Trailing by five, FCAHS got the ball back at itsr 27-yard line with less than two minutes to play. But on the first snap, Orgeron stepped into the flat to pick off McNair and the Blue Devils were able to run out the clock.
"Turnovers were huge, turnovers were huge, turnovers were really huge," FCAHS coach Lee Sullivan said. "One time, we're driving down there, trailing by five. Another one, they scoop and score on it, so that's a pretty big difference in the game."
McNair, who finished 10 of 14 for 180 yards, hooked up with Kijana Breeland on a 53-yard to tie the game 7-7 on the first play after Orgeron's return.
After Michael Tatman scored on a 7-yard run to give the Blue Devils a 14-7 lead after the first quarter, McNair sliced in from the 1-yard line to tie the game 14-14 early in the second.
PRC immediately regained the lead 21-14 on a six-play, 65-yard drive, capped by a 27-yard touchdown pass from Wyatt Davis to A.J. Banks before Seth Rugg's 17-yard field goal allowed FCAHS to cut its deficit to 21-17 at halftime.
The Blue Devils grabbed the momentum out of the locker room, grinding more than five minutes off the clock on an 11-play drive that ended on an 8-yard touchdown run by Louis Reece (134 yards on 21 carries; three catches for 20 yards).
Back came the Aggies, as McNair found Breeland on a post route for a 45-yard touchdown that got FCAHS within 28-23 four plays later.
The Aggies were driving again, and had reached the Blue Devils' 33-yard line, when Willie Reece stripped Kyron Norwood after a 9-yard run and took the ball back 74 yards for a 34-23 lead.
The Aggies answered on a 31-yard, halfback option pass from Bryce Bass that ricocheted off Nathan Whitley and Banks at the 10-yard line straight into the arms of Daniel Bond to get FCAHS back within five points.
But Orgeron's second takeaway ended the Aggies' final threat.
"I don't think either team played its best, with a lot first-game mistakes," Dolan said. "But hats off to Forrest County. They played their guts out."
Sullivan said he saw things to like despite the loss.
"We moved the ball well and the defense played well in spots," he said. "We've got a lot of untested guys, but we played well. A play here or there and this goes the other way."