HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg High School senior quarterback Jarod Conner admitted to a little fatigue after his final go-round in the Battle for The Lil' Brown Jug with archrival Laurel High School.
"My legs are a little tired, but I'll get over it," Conner said with a small grin. "I'll take an ice bath and I'll be good."
Conner had every reason in the world to be tired after being far more than merely good under the Saturday night lights at D.I. Patrick Stadium.
Conner rushed for 236 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries to lead the Tigers past the Golden Tornadoes 41-20 in the 97th annual renewal of the longest continuously played high school football rivalry in Mississippi.
Conner, who also completed 10-of-15 passes for 93 yards, had the ball in his hands for 45 of Hattiesburg's 58 offensive snaps.
"We want the ball in his hands," Hattiesburg High coach Tony Vance said as the Tigers maintained possession of the traveling trophy, winning The Jug game for a fifth consecutive year. "He's normally going to take care of the football. He just makes great decisions.
"He's put on 20 pounds and we're going to use him."
The five-game winning streak in the series matches the longest by either team since Laurel won five Jug games in a row from 1999-2003. The streak is the longest for Hattiesburg since six consecutive wins between 1984-89.
The 21-point margin was the largest in the series since Hattiesburg's 38-0 win in 2012.
"It feels good," Conner said. "Senior year, win The Jug, and leave out with it."
Laurel put up a fight in the typical, hard-hitting annual clash between the teams, but the Golden Tornadoes put themselves in a hole with an interception and lost fumble. The game's only turnovers set up short fields that the Tigers used to score touchdowns and create a cushion that they rode throughout the game.
"It's hard to play catch-up against a team like that," Laurel coach Todd Breland said. "We created our own problems (Saturday) night. I thought we did some good things, too, but we put ourselves in a situation against a good football team that was too difficult to overcome."
Laurel (1-1) struck first after forcing the Tigers (2-0) turn the ball over on downs at the Golden Tornadoes' 11-yard on the game's opening possession.
Laurel converted on a third-and-18 with a 43-yard pass from senior quarterback Sinclair Ulmer to senior Jontarius Henderson on the 89-yard drive. Ulmer kept the drive alive with a 16-yard completion to senior running back Michael Terrell on a third-and-16, and three plays later scampered around left end for a 23-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers quickly answered, with Conner rushing for 57 yards on five carries on a 69-yard drive that he also kept alive with a 15-yard completion to senior receiver Darius Ruffin on a third-and-10. Conner capped off the drive with a 17-yard run as Hattiesburg tied score near the end of the third quarter.
Hattiesburg senior safety Adrian Leflore added to the momentum, picking off Ulmer and setting up the Tigers at the Laurel 38-yard line.
Conner ripped off a 23-yard and 5-yard runs before senior running back Dexter Allen finished off the three-play drive with a 10-yard run that gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead.
Allen would finish with 77 yards rushing on 11 carries.
The Tigers saw two more, second-quarter scoring opportunities go awry when they missed a 29-yard field-goal attempt and then turned the ball over on downs at Laurel's 10-yard line.
In between, the Golden Tornadoes put together a long drive but it withered at the Tigers' 35-yard line and the teams went into halftime with Hattiesburg leading 14-7.
Senior running back Zias Perryman, who ran for 73 yards and touchdown on 16 carries, fumbled on the first play of the second half after a 7-yard gain and Hattiesburg recovered at Laurel's 26-yard line.
Allen ripped off a 25-yard run around right end, and Conner crashed in from the 1-yard line for a 21-7 lead.
Laurel appeared in trouble after an incomplete pass on third-and-11 at Hattiesburg's 25, but a deadball personal foul call on the Tigers kept drive alive. Perryman's second-effort, 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal capped off a the 17-play, 74-yard march that pulled Laurel within 21-13.
But as it would the rest of the game, every time Laurel pulled within striking distance, the Tigers had answer.
"That's part of what we want to do on offense," Vance said. "We want to able to answer when people hit us in the mouth on defense. We want to be able to respond, what we call putting the fire out."
Conner delivered the first pail-load, finishing off an 88-yard drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Laurel came back behind the slippery feet of junior scatback Amir Smith and the bulldozing runs of Terrell, with the latter supplying a 16-yard battering ram of a scoring run to get the Golden Tornadoes back within 28-20.
But Hattiesburg senior return man Jairus McFarland supplied the douser.
Laurel was pushed back 15 yards on the kickoff because of a deadball unsportsman-like conduct call on Terrell's TD run. McFarland took a few steps back to haul in the kick at his 24, broke through on the right sideline and set sail before cutting back inside at the 10-yard line to complete the 76-yard back-breaking touchdown return for a 34-20 lead.
"It was huge," Vance said. "That was huge for us. That was set up by the (penalty), so great field position. We set up our return, and he did the rest."
Laurel drove to the Hattiesburg 16-yard line, but the Golden Tornadoes lost three yards on a run, and after two passes fell incomplete, Ulmer was smothered on fourth down by Hattiesburg senior defensive lineman Chris Turner.
"When we got that last sack with a 14-point lead, I felt pretty good," Vance said.
Hattiesburg took over with a little less than six minutes to play and had marched methodically downfield before pandemonium erupted in the stands.
According to officials, a fight beneath the stands had sent one participant fleeing into a bathroom, where he slammed the door. Onlookers thought they had a heard a gun's report and word quickly spread through the standing-room only crowd.
The stands emptied like a plug being pulled on a drain, and the incident sent both teams sprinting off the field to their respective locker rooms.
Play resumed about 10 minutes later, and Conner scored for the fourth time on a 19-yard run to wrap up his performance and the Tigers' victory.
"I've been doing this 21 years, so I've seen just about everything," Vance said.
Breland, who had waited in the postgame line to congratulate Conner and his teammates, said the incident was well-handled.
"We've never had any problems coming over to Hattiesburg and I thought their security and administration did a great job getting it settled down, calming everybody down and getting them to realize it was simply a fight behind the bleachers," Breland said.
Terrell ran for 88 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries for Laurel, while Ulmer had 45 yards and a score.
Allen had four catches for 30 yards, Ruffin added three grabs for 35 yards, McFarland had two catches for 9 yards and Hakeem Vance had a big, 21-yard catch on a third-and-13 that kept a touchdown drive alive.
Laurel will return home at 7 p.m. Friday to welcome Oak Grove High School (2-0) "Between the Bricks" at Blair Stadium, while Hattiesburg takes to the road for the first time this season to visit Moss Point High School (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.