HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Friday night showdown between the leaders of Region 4-5A lived up to its pregame billing and then some.
Trailing by nine points, Hattiesburg High School scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes of the game to pull off a 41-37 win at Picayune High School.
"Just real proud of these guys," Hattiesburg coach Tony Vance said. "We had to overcome some adversity, like we did earlier in the year with Laurel and Petal, and we were able to do what we needed to do to win the game."
HHS junior quarterback Jarod Conner threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to senior D'Andre Humbles with about three minutes to play for the game-winning points.
Conner completed 12 of 25 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns as the undefeated Tigers (9-0, 5-0) overcame a 307-yard, four-touchdown rushing performance by Picayune senior running back Shaun Anderson.
"I think he's still running," Vance said. "He popped a couple on us, moved the pile a few times, well, several times. He's tough, man, he's tough."
Picayune (7-2, 4-1) ran for 504 yards, including 112 yards and a touchdown by senior fullback Brian Taylor. All told, the Maroon Tide finished with 548 yards total offense and never punted.
But with the Tigers trailing 37-34, senior safety Raykell Ducksworth stripped Anderson of the football with senior defensive lineman Chris Turner recovering. It was the only turnover of the game.
After Conner found Humbles for the go-ahead score, the Tigers defense held Picayune to secure the win.
"We created one turnover on their next-to-last possession and then got a stop on fourth down on their last possession," Vance said. "We only came up with two stops, but that's what it came down to, stopping them.
"We only had one turnover the whole ballgame. When you've got two really good teams playing, mistakes like that, that's who's going to lose. We forced a turnover right there at the end when they had a chance to go up (by two scores). That was huge."
Conner put HHS up 7-0 with a 41-yard touchdown pass to senior Jaylynn Page. Picayune cut the lead to 7-6 at the end of the first quarter on Anderson's 1-yard run.
The Tide took a 14-7 lead on Anderson's 34-yard touchdown run and his two-point conversion run, but Conner connected with senior Raheem Willis on a 44-yard touchdown to tie the game.
Picayune then drove inside the Tigers' 10-yard line but had to settle for Sam Naji's 24-yard field goal that gave the Tide a 17-14 lead.
Hattiesburg answered, with Conner scoring on an 8-yard run to give the Tigers a 21-17 halftime lead. Conner finished with 99 yards rushing and a touchdown on 12 carries.
"To me, one of the biggest plays in the game was forcing them to a field goal there in the first half," Vance said. "They drove down there to the 5-yard line, 4-yard line, and we held them to a field goal. Those four points right there that they didn't get were the difference in the game."
Anderson broke off a 28-yard touchdown run to put the Tide ahead 24-17, but a 22-yard touchdown run by senior Fabian Franklin put HHS ahead 28-24.
Anderson closed the third quarter with a 35-yard scoring run and Taylor opened the fourth with a 33-yard run to push the Tide into a 37-28 lead.
Conner connected with Willis for the second time, this time on an 11-yard touchdown pass, and then finished the scoring with the pass to Humbles.
Humbles finished with four catches for 115 yards, while Willis had the two catches for 55 yards.
The Tigers will play their final home game of the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday, hosting Long Beach High School in region play. The Bearcats (6-3, 3-2) defeated West Harrison High School 56-28 Friday in Region 4-5A play.
"We're unbeaten in (region), but we haven't won it yet," Vance said. "We've taken every game as it was, and tried to be 1-0 every week. This week, we'll try and do the same thing."
Gautier 28, Pearl River Central 22
CARRIERE _ Louis Reece rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries Friday, but it wasn't enough as the Blue Devils fell to the Gators in Region 4-5A play.
PRC (1-8, 1-4) rushed for 242 against Gautier (3-6, 2-3). Senior Tristan Anderson ran for 18 yards and a score on two carries, sophomore Kalvin Briggs had 53 yards on 11 carries and senior Cody Skoda added a 24-yard run.
The Blue Devils will travel to Wiggins Friday to take on Stone High School in region play. The Tomcats (5-3, 3-2) defeated Wayne County High School 44-21 Friday in region play.
Poplarville 69, Purvis 34
POPLARVILLE _ Senior Austin Bolton, junior Tyson Holston and sophomore Cory Knight each rushed for three touchdowns as the unbeaten Hornets clinched the Region 7-4A championship.
Poplarville (9-0, 4-0) will travel to Lawrence County High School at 7 p.m. Friday to try and finish off its first perfect regular season since 1972. The Cougars (3-6, 0-4) lost 46-20 to Greene County High School Friday night.
Purvis (4-5, 2-2) hung with the Hornets for a half, trailing 2014 after one quarter and 35-20 at halftime, But the Hornets went up 49-26 after three quarters and never were headed.
Senior quarterback Ty Howell threw a trio of touchdowns for the Tornadoes, including strikes of 10 yards and 60 yards to sophomore Jessie Johnson and a 96-yard hookup with senior C.J. Bolar.
Howell also scored on a 15-yard run and senior running back John Bolton broke a 75-yard touchdown run.
But Bolton scored on a pair of 3-yard runs and a 35-yarder, Knight had scoring runs of 2 yards, 5 yards and 9 yards and Holston scored on runs of 8 yards, 10 yards and 23 yards.
Sophomore Zac Owen capped the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 2-yard run.
Purvis will host Forrest County Agricultural High School at 7 p.m. Friday in the region finale for both. FCAHS (5-5, 1-3) lost to Sumrall High School 27-13 Friday.
Jefferson Davis County 27, Seminary 14
SEMINARY _ The Jaguars overcame a slew of first-half turnovers by outscoring the Bulldogs 20-0 in the fourth quarter to clinch the Region 8-3A championship.
Despite the offensive woes that included three lost fumbles and twice turning the ball over on downs, Jefferson Davis (9-1, 4-0) still led 7-0 at halftime after junior Zion Hathorn returned an interception 40 yards for the only score of the first two quarters.
Seminary (4-6, 1-4) took a 14-7 lead when senior Javin Moore caught a touchdown pass and another Jaguars' fumble set up junior Nathan Pickering's touchdown run.
But junior Jafharis McKines capped off a drive that started in the third quarter with a 35-yard touchdown run and senior fullback Terry Bryant added a two-point conversion run to put JDS ahead for good.
McKines scored again, combining with sophomore quarterback Lyric Hall on a 10-yard touchdown pass, and senior Demazie Mikell capped the scoring on a 20-yard touchdown run.
The Jaguars will wrap up the regular season by hosting Wesson High School at 7 p.m. Friday. The Cobras (4-6, 0-4) dropped a 36-20 decision to Tylertown High School Friday in region play.
Seminary will host Columbia High School at 7 p.m. Friday with the winner securing the fourth playoff slot in Region 8-3A. The Wildcats lost 40-0 Thursday to West Marion High School.