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Picayune survives a scare

Picayune’s perfect regular season was nearly derailed early in the post-season as the Tide overcame turnovers in rallying to beat West Jones 14-7 in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs Friday at Tide Stadium.

The Maroon Tide (10-0) turned the ball over four times in the first half, twice inside the West Jones five-yard line. A fifth turnover late in the game allowed the Mustangs (7-4) to take one final shot at victory.

“I hope that we can come back and be a little better team next week,” said head coach Dodd Lee, whose team will host McComb in the second round of the playoffs. “I think we can look at some things and do a little better.”

West Jones, who had been to the last three 4A South State championship games, gave the Tide all they wanted.

“We’re glad to get out of it with a win,” said Lee. “They came to play. They did a great job. The did some things on defense to some of our sets that we weren’t expecting.”

After a scoreless first half in which both teams combined for six turnovers, the Mustangs went 65 yards in eight plays on the first drive of the second half with quarterback Chase Headrick finding running back Jerrell Knight for a 17-yard scoring strike. Adam Herrington’s point after made it 7-0. It was the first time all year Picayune had been behind.

The Tide didn’t stay behind long, answering the score on their first drive of the second half. While the ‘Stangs used the arm of Headrick on their scoring drive — the senior completed 4-of-4 passes, Picayune used the legs of junior running back Albert Richard. He carried the ball 10 times for 50 yards on the 65-yard drive, including the final 17 into the endzone.

West Jones was called for off-sides on the point after, and the Tide elected to go for two-points and the lead. Richard bulled his way in for the conversion and Picayune was up 8-7 late in the third period.

The turning point in the game came with 5:08 to play when Headrick found tight end Redrick Young open over the middle for a 31-yard gain, but he was stripped of the ball and Chance Griffith, who also had a first half interception, scooped the ball up and returned it to the West Jones 47. Two plays later, sophomore wing back Chris Nixon scooted around right end on the reverse for the 45-yard score. The point after was blocked.

Picayune thought they had the game wrapped up when linebacker Levi Slaydon picked off Headrick, who had three interceptions on the night, and returned the ball 73 yards for what the Tide believed was a TD. But a block in the back nullified the score. With less than a minute to play, Nixon fumbled the ball and the Mustangs recovered at the Tide 33. Headrick hit Tyler Gardner in the endzone for the TD, but he was over the line of scrimmage when he released the ball, wiping out the score. Two incompletions ended the game and the West Jones season.

“Both teams played hard and the bottom line is that we just came up a little short,” said West Jones head coach Scott Pierson. “When you’ve got two good football teams laying it on the line, you’re going to have turnovers.”