COLLINS, Miss. (WDAM) _ The first time Taylorsville and Collins high schools met on the football field this season, the Tartars left town with a shutout victory by a margin of five touchdowns.
The result in the second meeting turned out to be the same, but Friday night felt more like a wake-up call for Taylorsville rather than business as usual for Class 2A’s two-time defending South State champions.
With junior quarterback Ty Keyes and Taylorsville’s high-flying aerial attack on hiatus for an evening, the Tartars turned to their ground game and a stout defense to take a 21-8 victory in the Class 2A South State quarterfinals.
“It worked a little bit,” said junior running back Jeffrey Pittman, who rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
It worked enough.
Spurred by the one-two punch of Pittman and senior Travis Keyes, Taylorsville (12-1) ran for 268 yards and all three of its touchdowns in a game the Tartars never trailed and the Tigers truly threatened in for only a few minutes.
“When teams give us a light box, we’re fortunate to be able to run the football,” Taylorsville coach Mitch Evans said. “If they bring eight guys, of course, Ty can throw the ball and we’ve got good receivers.
“(Friday night), they were giving us a lot of light box, and we were able to run it some.”
But Pittman admitted the Tartars didn’t take the Tigers as seriously as they should have.
Perhaps an argument could be made as to why.
Collins lost all-star-caliber quarterback Hershey McLaurin to a season-ending knee injury just a few weeks into the season. The Tigers spent the rest of the fall trying to adjust, taking losses in the process, including a 35-0 decision to Taylorsville.
“We didn’t practice like we needed,” Pittman said. “We didn’t come out ready. We thought it was going to be an easy win like last time and they came out and took it to us.”
Perhaps that’s because the Tigers were not the same team.
Despite McLaurin’s loss, Collins hung tough, refusing to become an easy mark on somebody else’s schedule. The Tartars’ margin of victory was an anomaly, with only a 24-point loss to Jefferson Davis County in the same ballpark.
There was a five-point loss to Seminary High School, a four-pointer to Florence High School. Collins broke through for a two-point win against Mendenhall High School, and then did not win again until Region 8-2A play.
But the Tigers won enough to earn the region’s third seed, and then clobbered Amite County High School on the road to open the playoffs.
Collins came into Friday having won three of its last five games and were in mood to be an easy out for Taylorsville.
“We worked hard last week and I knew if the kids came out and played hard, it would be a good game,” Collins coach Eric Booth said. “I think we played the best team in the state in 2A, and we gave them a run for their money.
“We gave up 14 points in the first half and then only one more (score) in the second. I thought the offense and defense did about all you could ask for.”
Keyes, who was recently named Class 2A’s “Mr. Football” for a second consecutive season, wound up with one of the worst passing games of his three-year career, statistically-speaking.
Keyes completed 8-of-17 passes for 102 yards. It marked the first time this fall his completion percentage dipped below 50 percent and the yards also were a season low.
His receivers didn’t help, flat-out dropping at least five passes, but Evans gave a tip of the cap to Booth and his staff.
“Coach Booth, he’s done a great job,” Evans said. “Defensively, they gave us problems. We couldn’t get any rhythm on offense. They played hard on defense.
“Give them all the credit. Yeah, we didn’t execute, but they were the reason why.”
Taylorsville scored on its second possession after 19-yard punt set up the Tartars at the Tigers’ 46-yard line. Pittman took the handoff and was gone, giving Taylorsville a 7-0 lead.
Two other Tartar drives in the first quarter ended up empty, with Collins forcing Taylorsville to give up the ball on downs.
An interception by senior Quadarious Rhodes set Taylorsville up at the Collins’ 35-yard line just seconds into the second quarter.
Travis Keyes carried the ball five times for all 35 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run that left te Tartars ahead 14-0 at halftime.
After an exchange of punts, the Tigers cut the lead to 14-8 on a 34-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion run by junior Ken’Dariun Magee.
But Taylorsville immediately answered.
A good kickoff return brought the ball out to the Collins’ 48, and three plays later, Ty Keyes went around left end for a 39-yard touchdown run.
“That was big, a big play right there,” Booth said.
The teams spent the rest of the second half stifling one another’s offenses
Evans said Friday night could serve as a fine example of the difference between the regular season and the postseason.
“Well, I hope so,” Evans said, “because if we play like this next week, it could get ugly.”
The Tartars will meet Region 6-2A top seed Philadelphia High School, at 7 p.m. Friday in a Class 2A South Tate semifinal game. The Tornadoes (12-1) topped Perry Central High School 42-8 Friday night.