Laurel squeaks past Petal in thriller

Laurel squeaks past Petal in thriller

PETAL, MS (WDAM) - Todd Breland and his coaching staff at Laurel High School liked what they saw of place-kicker Harris Hauenstein during pregame warm-ups Friday night at Panther Stadium.

"In pregame, we noticed his leg was active (Friday) night," Breland said. "And I didn't mind taking the shot. I didn't hesitate."

The "shot" was a no-doubt, 38-yard field goal from Hauenstein with 30 seconds to play that gave the Golden Tornadoes a 30-28 victory over Petal High School in a see-saw game that saw momentum switch on nearly every possession.

"I'm just awful proud of them," Breland said. "If you don't think Petal's any good, then you weren't here (Friday) night. They're a good football team, but we threw up some prayers, and some were answered. The kids found a way to win a football game."

For Class 5A Laurel (3-1), it was a decided team effort, with all three phases of the game offense, defense and special teams putting points on the board.

Quarterback Tyquan Ulmer completed 19 of 27 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns with an interception.

Ulmer, including a pair of scoring passes to Je'Vah Jones of 11 yards and 66 yards in the first half and a 3-yard score to Michael Terrell in the third quarter.

Jones finished with catches for 87 yards, Dontario Drummond had five catches for 134 yards and Anthony Jones had six catches for 61 yards.

Safety Jalon Thigpen gave the Tornadoes a boost and a six-point halftime lead when he jumped a quick route and returned the interception 82 yards for a score.

"I was just at the right place," Thigpen said, who iced the win with a second interception following Hauenstein's kick. "It was a good game."

Indeed. Class 6A Petal (2-2) got 99 yards rushing and four touchdowns from quarterback Tanner Estill, while running back Stephon Huderson rushed for 166 yards on 27 carries.

"We knew that their quarterback was really good, and I thought Tanner played well," Petal coach Marcus Boyles said. "He had a couple of mistakes, but he played well."

Laurel took a 6-0 lead on Ulmer's 11-yarder to Jones, but Petal answered with Estill's 32-yard run to take a 7-6 lead after one quarter.

The Panthers bumped the lead to 14-6 with 3:45 left in the second quarter when Estill capped an 85-yard drive with a 13-yard run on a fourth-and-4 play.

But two plays later, Ulmer sidled to his left and found Jones behind the defense. The rainbow pass caught Jones in stride, popped up in the air for just a second before settling back in his hands to pull Laurel back to 14-13.

Petal was driving again, moving to the Tornadoes' 24-yard line when Thigpen stepped in front of Estill's pass and went the distance to give Laurel a 20-14 lead with 19 seconds left in the second quarter.

Petal regained the lead by a point on Estill's 2-yard run, but a 49-yard completion to Drummond set up Ulmer's 3-yard swing pass to Terrell that left Laurel ahead 27-21 after three quarters.

Once again, the Panthers nudged ahead, when Estill caught the pylon in the left front corner at the end of a 3-yard run, leaving Petal ahead 28-27 with 9:31 left in the game.

After an exchange of punts, Laurel drove to the Panthers' 10-yard line. Rolling to his right, Ulmer tried to thread the needle to Drummond in the back of the end zone, but Joseph Peters swooped in front of the pass to squelch the threat with 3:43 to play.

After bringing the ball out of the end zone, the Panthers found themselves on their own 2-yard line, and Huderson was nearly caught for a safety on first down. Two more snaps netted just 4 yards, and Petal's punt from its end zone set up Laurel at the Panthers' 37 with 2:36 to go.

Benefitting from a personal foul call on Petal, the Tornadoes reached the 21-yard line before Breland called on Hauenstein, whose kick would have been good from another 10 yards back.

Two plays later, Thigpen intercepted Estill's Hail Mary near midfield to end the Panthers' last chance.

"Coach Boyles, you know when you come down here and play one of his teams, you know they are going to be well-prepared," Breland said. "They're going to win a bunch of games this year. This was just a really good game (Friday) night."

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