PINE BELT (WDAM) - HATTIESBURG: Sacred Heart High School may not be going to postseason play this year, not after a series of midseason injuries contributed to a four-game losing streak that all but dashed the Crusaders' playoff hopes.
And yet, Sacred Heart coach Lonnie Schraeder said this team is the one that he's as proud of as any he's been associated with during a coaching career spanning three decades.
"You talk about adversity and obstacles, you name it, and we've faced it this year," Schraeder said. "For this group of guys, to just keep working and drawing together and believing in themselves, I couldn't be prouder, really."
The Crusaders finished strong, closing out their Region 4-1A schedule with a pair of wins, including a season-ending, 42-38 ambush of Stringer High School Friday.
Stringer (9-3, 4-2), which already had a clinched a first-round Class 1A playoff game at home, did not play standout junior running back Anthony Thomas (1,400 yards rushing, 18 TDs). Junior backup running back Caulin Brown carried just once.
Yet, even with those absences, Stringer likely was the prohibitive favorite in the minds of most.
"I'm sure they weren't thinking much us, I mean that wouldn't surprise me one bit," Schraeder said. "But, you still have to play."
Instead, senior running back Campbell Klein ran for 243 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries for the Crusaders (5-6, 2-4 Region 4-1A).
Klein, who returned from a broken bone, ran for more than 260 yards the week before against Salem High School.
"He had better than 500 yards his last two games," Schraeder said.
Senior receiver/safety Jackson Allen had three catches for 35, including a 19-yard touchdown catch. Allen also had five tackles, two interceptions and fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Senior receiver/defensive back Joseph Bishop had five catches for 80 yards and returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown. Bishop also had nine tackles and forced a fumble.
Senior defensive lineman Grady Leek finished with 10 tackles, including a sack, and forced a fumble and fellow senior defensive lineman Mike McElroy also had 10 tackles and a sack.
"We started off with maybe 10 seniors and ended up with five," Schraeder said of the attrition over the season. "But every one of those seniors Friday night played huge.
"They played the best games of their careers."
Junior defensive back Presley Gibbs made six tackles and recovered a fumble, junior linebacker Garrett Crowder had nine tackles and junior defensive lineman Tanner Blakeney finished with eight tackles, including a sack.
Junior quarterback Zach Weatherell completed 11-of-21 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
For Stinger, senior receiver/defensive back Reece Barber ran three times for 31 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 89 yards and a score. He also had an interception.
Junior receiver Keyshaun Dease has two catches for 109 yards and a touchdown and returned a kickoff for a touchdown and fellow junior receiver Conner Hicks had six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore running back Cooper Rodgers had 65 yards on 14 carries.
Junior quarterback Cayleb Dyess completed 12-of-28 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. Dyess also ran for a two-point conversion, and on defense, he came up with an interception.
Senior Mikquan Peyton was credited with a safety for Stringer.
The Red Devils, which finished second in Region 4-1A, will host Noxapater High School at 7 p.m. Friday. The Tigers (8-3), which finished as the third seed in Region 3-1A, lost Friday to region champion Nanih Waiya High School 36-0.
Schrader said though the football season did not turn out the way Sacred Heart had wanted, in terms of wins and losses, the players will take the lesson learned on the field and locker room with them for the rest of their lives.
"You talk about perseverance, about trusting one another, about teamwork, about loyalty," Schaeder said. "I can't say enough about them. I really can't. It might have been one of the biggest wins in my 30, 31 years."
South Jones 57, Jackson Wingfield 22
ELLISVILLE: Junior quarterback John Mitchell threw for five touchdowns and ran for another in the first half as the Braves clinched a berth in the Class 5A postseason.
South Jones (8-4, 4-3 Region 3-5A) led the Falcons (2-9, 1-6) after one quarter 28-0 and at halftime 57-16.
The Braves, who have taken steps forward each season under Coach Cory Reynolds, have logged back-to-back, eight win seasons, making the playoffs for the first time in Reynolds' four years at the helm.
Mitchell, who completed 13-of-23 passes for 222 yards, threw a pair of scoring passes to senior Shiwon Lovett (30 yards, 12 yards) and sophomore Cody Locklear (30 yards, 18 yards, as well as a touchdown toss to Kameron Flowers (5 yards).
Locklear had five catches for 110 yards, Lovett had three catches for 43 yards and Flowers finished with three catches for 40 yards.
Senior running back Ricky Boleware had a pair of 10-yard touchdown runs and Mitchell added an 8-yard scoring run. Mitchell ran for 72 yards on seven carries and Boleware added 43 yards on six carries.
The Braves will visit Hattiesburg High School at 7 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs. The Tigers (11-0), champions of Region 4-5A, defeated West Harrison High School 62-20 Friday.
Brookhaven 26, West Jones 0
SOSO: The Panthers shut down the Mustangs' offense Friday and gradually pulled away to clinch the Region 3-5A title.
Brookhaven (10-1, 7-0 Region 3-5A) led 9-0 after the first quarter on junior quarterback Sevante Quinn's 12-yard run and a safety.
Senior running back Damarrell Leggett scored on a 3-yard run in the second quarter to put the Panthers up 16-0 at halftime.
Quinn tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Kadarius Wells in the third quarter and senior Tyler Mixon capped the scoring in the fourth quarter with a season-long 42-yard field goal.
West Jones (8-3, 6-1), which had a seven-game winning streak snapped, managed just 165 yards total offense.
Junior quarterback Dusty Cook completed 11-of-20 passes for 106 yards with an interception. Senior running back Austin Land was limited to 38 yards on 15 carries and had two catches for 19 yards. Senior receiver Garrick Randolph had three catches for 60 yards.
The Mustangs will host Stone High School at 7 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs. The Tomcats (7-3, 5-2) defeated Long Beach High School 48-40 Friday.
The Panthers will host Wayne County High School at 7 p.m. Friday in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs. The War Eagles (6-5, 4-3) secured a berth in the playoffs Friday with a 42-21 win over Gautier High School.
Laurel 47, Natchez 14
LAUREL: Junior quarterback Sinclair Ulmer ran for one touchdown and threw for another as the Golden Tornadoes jumped on the Bulldogs early.
Laurel (7-4, 5-2 Region 3-5A) led 14-0 after one quarter and 31-0 at halftime.
Ulmer ran 18 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring and junior Michael Terrell made it 14-0 with a 9-yard scoring run.
Junior Zias Perryman led off the second quarter against Natchez (6-5, 3-4) with a 21-yard touchdown run, senior Juan Lechuga added a 21-yard field goal and Ulmer threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to senior Juan Nelson to cap the first-half onslaught.
The Golden Tornadoes added a 76-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Xavier Evans to junior Jontarious Henderson and a safety in the third quarter.
Laurel will travel to Picayune High School at 7 p.m. Friday for a Class 5A first round playoff game. The Maroon Tide (9-2, 6-1 Region 4-5A) defeated cross-county rival Pearl River Central High School 54-0 Friday.