ELLISVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Hattiesburg High School football coach Tony Vance said a slice of the Tigers' game plan Friday night was to quickly seize control of their first-round Class 5A playoff game at South Jones High School.
Hattiesburg did just that, and as the game went on, the points continued to pile up.
The Tigers led 13-0 after the first quarter and 28-3 at halftime before finishing with a 50-10 victory over the Braves.
“We came out and executed early and took control early on, and that’s what you need to do in the playoffs,” Vance said.
The Tigers' fifth consecutive victory sent them into a South State semifinal match-up with fellow Region 4-5A member, Pascagoula High School.
The Panthers moved into the South State semifinals when Brookhaven High School was unable to play because of coronavirus issues.
Hattiesburg (8-3) will be making the trip south for the second time this season at 7 p.m. Friday to tangle with the Panthers (6-4).
In the first meeting, the Tigers led 20-14 after three quarters, but Pascagoula scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter while keeping Hattiesburg off the scoreboard to take a 44-20 victory.
Hattiesburg committed five turnovers, including four interceptions. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns by Anthony Sanford.
“The mindset is to be more focused and finish the game,” Hattiesburg defensive back/running back Chanse Duckworth said. "We didn’t finish the game the last time we played Pascagoula,
“Our focus is to finish the game. Four quarters.”
Friday night, Hattiesburg personified focus, limiting South Jones to a Je’Correan Fulford field goal before the Braves got into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Luke Griffin to Dalton Keys.
“We lost the tee on the opening kickoff and it snowballed on down,” first-year South Jones coach Todd Breland said. "Hattiesburg’s a good team, and we knew, at this point in time, that we were overmatched a little bit, and when you are, you can’t make the mistakes we made (Friday).
“Still, all in all, it was a season we made a lot of strides. Our seniors know that when we get this thing turned around, that they were a big part of it.”
South Jones (6-6), whose record included four victories by coronavirus-related forfeit saw two of its Friday night mistakes go the other way, as the Tigers returned a pair of interceptions for scores.
With Hattiesburg leading 13-0, linebacker/defensive end Tomacio Robinson returned an errant Braves' pass 40 yards for a touchdown. Duckworth turned the trick in the fourth quarter, going 65 yards with a pick six.
“We made some plays that were just huge for us,” Vance said. “The guys have played great for us all year, and continued to do so (Friday).”