HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - During a casual, pregame conversation Friday night, Hattiesburg High School coach Tony Vance conceded that the Tigers likely would throw the football Jordan Murphy's way Friday night.
Of course, Hattiesburg always throws the football Murphy's way, and the University of Tennessee commitment showed exactly why that's such a good idea.
Murphy caught 10 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns to help Hattiesburg fly away with a 49-14 Region 4-5A victory over visiting Pascagoula High School.
"Him and Julian Conner, that's just a great duo, a great tandem," Vance said. "Those guys are on the same page most of the time, and we're fortunate to have them on our football team, I can tell you that."
Murphy snared scoring passes of 37 yards and 38 yards in the first half, then added a 16-yard touchdown reception in the second as the Tigers (6-3, 3-1) bounced back from their first regional loss of the season last week.
Coupled with Stone High School's overtime victory Friday over Picayune High School, four teams are tied atop the region with one loss: Stone, Picayune, Hattiesburg and Pascagoula.
Murphy and Conner teamed up six times for 196 yards in the first half, then connected four more times for another 98 yards in the second.
Conner would complete 14 of 23 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns. All but four of his completions went to Murphy.
"We've known each other since elementary (school) and have just grown up playing football with each other," Murphy said. "We just found the connection real good when we got to high school."
Pascagoula (4-4, 3-1), which saw a four-game winning streak snapped, scored on the first possession of the game, but would not score again until the fourth quarter.
"We knew we had to play clean football, and we did not play clean football (Friday night)," Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims said. "We did not take advantage of our opportunities, but all the credit in the world to Hattiesburg. They stepped up (Friday night). They give up 56 points last week and 14 (Friday night), and you know what? They just outplayed us."
Running back Reginald Hunter, who rushed for a game-high 139 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, put the Panthers on the board first with a 16-yard run. Javarous Walker added a 2-point conversion run, and Pascagoula led 8-0 less than 90 seconds into the game.
Hattiesburg answered immediately. Shakeenen West returned the kickoff to the 14-yard line, and Fabian Franklin covered the distance in four carries, cracking in on a 1-yard run to get Hattiesburg within 8-7.
Conner and Murphy connected on a 37-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers ahead 14-8 after one quarter, and after stopping the Panthers at the 16-yard line, Conner connected Darius Ruffin for 45 yards before finding Murphy for a 39-yard score.
Franklin, who rushed 79 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, added a 2-point conversion run to give the Tigers a 22-8 lead with 6:38 left in the first half.
Two Hattiesburg fumbles stopped a pair of first-half drives by the Tigers, and the Panthers stopped another on downs at the 20-yard line late in the second quarter.
But a bad snap over the head of quarterback Damon McLaurin rolled inside the 10-yard line, and Hattiesburg's Demarkeise Smith scooped the ball at the 8-yard line and scampered into the end zone to leave the Tigers ahead 29-8 at halftime.
Hattiesburg fumbled away its first possession of the third quarter at its 40-yard line, and Pascagoula marched 37 yards on 10 running plays. But after a losing a yard on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Walker's halfback pass on fourth down was intercepted in the end zone by Chandler Phillips.
Hattiesburg then went 80 yards, with Conner finding Murphy for a 16-yard score and a 36-8 lead. On the Panthers' next possession, Phillips picked off his second pass of the game and returned it to the Pascagoula 25, from where Franklin carried four times, pounding in again on a 1-yard touchdown run for a 43-8 lead.
Pascagoula got on the board with 5:51 left in the game on Hunter's 23-yard bolt up the middle, but Murphy's 39-yard catch set up Drexlan Allen's 1-yard run to wrap up the scoring.
Hattiesburg will visit Gautier High School Friday, while Pascagoula will host Pearl River Central High School.