PINE BELT (WDAM) - For the better part of the first half Thursday night at Patrick Stadium, Hattiesburg High School had its hands full with East Marion High School.
But the Class 5A Tigers roared to three touchdowns over the final five minutes, 52 seconds, of the second quarter to pull away from the Class 2A Eagles on the way to a 51-6 victory.
Quarterback Julian Conner threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns over three-plus quarters and Fabian Franklin, sidelined since suffering a first-half concussion two weeks ago, returned to rush for 112 yards and two scores.
"I told our players all week that it was about us, Hattiesburg, and not who we were playing, that it was about us getting better and working on the things we needed to work on," Hattiesburg Coach Tony Vane said. "Proud of our guys and proud of the effort they gave. We just have to get better each week."
Hattiesburg (3-1) won its third consecutive game to leave East Marion (0-4) still looking for its first win on the season.
"I'm very proud of our kids, they way we came out and fought early on," East Marion Coach Kevin Jackson said. "(Class) 2A, (Class) 5A, huge gap there, but the kids came out and fought, and that's what we talked about all week, playing with a lot of effort."
Hattiesburg took a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard run by Drexlan Allen, but on the Tigers' next possession, Franklin had the ball punched from his grasp and into the hands of Devin Daniels, who caught it on the fly running full blast.
Daniels returned the fumble 32 yards for a touchdown, and after a missed extra point, the Eagles had pulled within 7-6 with 3:10 left in the first quarter.
Conner needed just four plays to march the Tigers 65 yards. He hit 3 of 4 passes on the drive for 55 yards, including a 29-yard score to Jordan Murphy for a 14-6 lead after one quarter.
East Marion took possession and moved to the Hattiesburg 27-yard line, where the Eagles turned the ball over on downs.
The Tigers took over and promptly went 73 yards on 10 plays, with Franklin scoring on an 8-yard run to boost the Hattiesburg lead to 21-7 with 5:52 before halftime.
Hattiesburg needed just four plays to score the next time it had the ball. After an incompletion, Allen ran for 11 yards, Conner found DeAndre Humbles for 26 yards and Franklin finished it off with a nifty 38 yard run around the left side for a 27-6 lead with 2:37 to play in the quarter.
After a three-and-out by the Eagles, the Tigers went 52 yards in four plays. Humbles gained 17 yards on a reverse, Conner hit Franklin with a 48-yard completion and then found Anthony Dunn for a 10-yard touchdown to leave Hattiesburg up 35-6 at halftime.
Hattiesburg scored on its first two possessions of the second half, with Conner throwing 53 yards to Murphy and 28 yards to Darius Ruffin. Gayden Hence tacked on a 32-yard field goal for the only score in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers limited the Eagles to 88 yards total offense, including minus 7 yards in the second half.
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