For a half, two teams that had come into Friday night on five-game tears stood toe-to-toe, each giving as good as it got.
But Collins High School staggered North Forrest High with a 1-2 offensive/defensive punch to open the second half, the Eagles never could recover as the Tigers went on to 35-20 Region 8-2A victory.
Collins running back Antonio Spencer burst from behind his blockers on a stretch play and sped 53 yards on the first play of second half, and after North Forrest drove the Tigers’ 26-yard line, defensive back Markel McLaurin intercepted a fourth-down pass and turned it around for a 99-yard touchdown.
The two scores expanded Collins’ 14-12 halftime lead to 28-12 and all but sealed the Eagles’ fate.
“That killed our motivation and our momentum,” North Forrest coach Anthony Dillon said. “Them coming out and having the ball and making a big play and then the pick six, it let the air out of us.
“We’ve got a bunch of young guys who have to still learn how to overcome adversity, but we’ve just got to keep our focus, put that one behind us and keep moving on.”
Collins (6-2, 1-0 Region 8-2A) celebrated its homecoming with its sixth consecutive victory while snapping the five-game winning streak that North Forrest (5-3, 1-1) brought into the game. The loss also snapped the Eagles' five-game winning streak in the region, dating to last year.
“It feels great,” said second-year Collins coach Eric Booth. “I told our kids (Friday), whoever wins this game is going to play for the (region) championship.
“We’re going to play hard the rest of the year. We’ve got Richton next week, then we play Perry Central and then we’ve got St. Patrick, so we’re to play hard and my guys are going to work hard and we’re going to do what we can do.”
North Forrest quarterback Daylyn Croom threw for three touchdowns and rushed 19 times for 97 yards, but it wasn’t enough to overcome 10 penalties for minus 100 yards and two interceptions, one by Croom and one by Leon Jones.
“You can’t do those kind of things against good teams,” Dillon said. “We’re already down in numbers, and fatigue kicked in a little bit, but we tried to keep the guys up.
“We’ve just got to get back to the drawing board and correct those things and get ready for East Marion.”
Collins was outgained by the Eagles 369 yards to 209 yards, but the Tigers scored in all three phases of the game and took advantage of a few North Forrest mistakes to pull away.
North Forrest led 6-0 in the first quarter on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Croom to Jalen Grant. Croom scrambled away from pressure, and appeared to be set to run before finding Grant on the far left side of the end zone.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Tavarian McCullum scooped up a short kick at his own 47, got to the left edge and set sail for a 53-yard score that put the Tigers up 7-6 after one quarter.
The Eagles went up 12-7 when Croom took the snap and looked like he intended to try the left side of the line. But Croom put on the brakes and unleashed a rope that caught Ryhen Briscoe in stride near midfield, and the burner raced the rest of the way for a 72-yard score.
Back came the Tigers. Another short kickoff set Collins up near midfield, and Spencer, who finished with 101 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, ripped off a 17-yard run to the Eagles 39-yard line. Two plays later, Collins quarterback Hershey McLaurin found Markel McLaurin with a touchdown pass from that spot to give Collins a 14-12 halftime lead.
Spencer’s run and Markel McLaurin’s interception return put the Tigers up two scores, and North Forrest turned the ball over on downs after a high punt snap forced Croom to try and scramble for a first down on fourth-and-forever.
Collins got the ball at North Forrest’s 23-yard line, and five plays later, Spencer scored for on a 7-yard run for a 35-12 lead.
Croom threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jones with 3:30 to play to end the scoring.