BAY SPRINGS, Miss. (WDAM) - Friday night, Goliath walked away with the win, though David gave a fine account of himself.
Running back Xavier Evans scored three times in the second quarter as Class 5A Laurel held off a rally in the fourth quarter by Class 2A Bay Springs to take a 26-20 victory in the first football game between the two neighboring high schools.
The two originally were not scheduled to play, but the coronavirus pandemic jumbled each school’s slate so that both had an opening at the end of the regular season.
“I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day,” Laurel coach Ryan Earnest said. "We picked it up late in the first half and early in the third quarter, but given our classification (difference), we can’t afford to get behind the eight ball.
“We have to do a better job of starting and a better job of finishing, and that starts with me.”
For Laurel, the win represented a double dip. The Golden Tornadoes picked up a forfeit win in Region 3-5A play, courtesy of Jackson Wingfield High School, along with the victory over the Bulldogs.
Laurel (6-3, 4-0) already has clinched the Region 3-5A championship, and will host the fourth seed out of Region 4-5A on Nov. 6.
“We’ll fix the things that need to be fixed, and let the guys who need to heal up to go ahead and heal up,” Earnest said. “Then, we’ll see who we’re going to play and put in our game plan.”
Bay Springs, which had been on the field only four times prior to Friday because of COVID-19, came out stout, stopping Laurel on downs on defense early, and then executing its Wing-T offense well enough to go 54 yards for the game’s first score.
Ty Jones scored on a 3-yard run to put the Bulldogs ahead 6-0 after one quarter.
But the engine finally roared to life for the Laurel offense midway through the second quarter,
Quarterback Dexter Scott floater-of-a-screen pass that Evans turned into a 26-yard touchdown. Laurel’s extra point put the Golden Tornadoes ahead for good, 7-6.
Evans capped Laurel’s next possession with a 7-yard touchdown run to put Laurel up 14-6 with less than two minutes left in the first half.
Bay Springs (3-5) then lost the handle on a pooched kickoff, with Laurel at the Bulldogs' 31-yard line. Four plays later, Evans' 10-yard run boosted Laurel’s lead to 20-6 at halftime.
“That was the turning point,” Bay Springs coach Dan Brady said.
The Golden Tornadoes got the ball to open the second half and capitalized when Scott rolled right and found Kanaris Johnson behind the coverage for a 37-yard scoring pass and 26-6 lead.
That margin lasted through the third quarter before Bay Springs sparked again in the final period.
A bit of fortune allowed the Bulldogs to pull within 26-14 Jones’s fumble looped into the hands of teammate Chase Wilson, who snatched the ball in mid-air and took a step into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run.
Jones banged in the 2-point conversion run.
The Bulldogs got within six points on Eddie Payton’s touchdown with 3:10 to play, but at that point, Evans re-entered the ballgame, and helped Laurel run out the clock.
“We got a couple of breaks down the stretch,” Brady said, "But I thought it was a good game...Not many people gave us a chance in this game.
“We really easily when it was 26-6 could have hung our heads, but Bay Springs is better than that. Our kids are better than that. We’re fighters and we’re going to keep on fighting.”
The Bulldogs, who will be the fourth seed out of Region 5-2A, will visit Wesson High School at 7 p.m. Friday. The Cobras (7-2) wrapped up the regular season with a 38-8 win over Enterprise-Lincoln High School Friday.