Maroon Tide survives scare

Published 12:37 am Sunday, November 11, 2007

Entering Friday’s opening round game in the Class 4A South State playoffs against Gautier, veteran Picayune head coach Dodd Lee described the Gators as a “scary” team to open the postseason against.

The underdog Gators almost frightened the second ranked Maroon Tide right out of the playoffs.

Picayune’s Gabe Hinojosa scored the game winning touchdown in the second overtime, as the Maroon Tide survived a shaky performance to pull out a 34-31 win.

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Hinojosa’s 4-yard scoring plunge came after Picayune had forced the Gators to kick a field goal in the first session of double overtime and after each team had tallied touchdowns in the first OT.

Picayune won its ninth straight game to move to 9-1, and will host powerful Lawrence County Friday in the South State quarterfinals.

Gautier finishes the season at 3-7.

“They outplayed us, they out-coached us and they out-hustled us,” Lee said, after the Gators came back from a 21-10 deficit in the fourth period to force the extra sessions. “They deserved to win the game and it’s really a shame that they didn’t.

We survived, that’s about it. That’s our motto this time of year, survive and advance, and that’s about all we did.”

Gautier’s seven losses all came to teams that finished in the top three of their respective divisions and all made the playoffs in either Class 4A or Class 5A.

“We honestly thought we could come in here and beat them,” Gautier head coach Don Nelson said. “We didn’t want to just come here and make a good showing, that’s not who we are. We played our hearts out and gave them everything they could handle, I couldn’t be more proud of the kids.”

It was the first overtime game for Picayune since beating Meridian 17-14 in 2003 and the first overtime playoff game since losing to George County 20-19 in 2002. It was the first meeting ever between the Tide and the Gators.

“We were very fortunate to win,” Lee added. “We didn’t quit and we gave a good effort, we just made way too many mistakes to win many games playing like that especially in the playoffs.”

The teams combined for nine turnovers in the game.

In fact, it was a fumble recovery by Picayune’s Drew Cole in the opening period that put the Maroon Tide on the scoreboard first.

Cole hopped on the loose ball, the third fumble of the first quarter by the two teams, at the Gautier 11 and teammate Reggie Bailey scored on a 4-yard run by a few plays later.

The Gators battled back, tying the game at 7-7 on a 15-yard quarterback scramble by Travonta Thomas with 8:19 to play before halftime.

But just about everytime time in the game Gautier posed the question of perhaps pulling a major upset, Picayune’s Albert Richard provided the answer.

Richard quickly broke the 7-7 tie when he raced 71 yards for a touchdown on the next play from scrimmage, giving Picayune a 14-7 lead.

Richard was outstanding all evening as he celebrated recently being picked for the prestigious Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Classic. He ran for 207 yards and three scores on the evening on 28 carries.

Gautier would cut the deficit to four with three minutes to play before halftime, as Josh Nelson, the head coach’s son, hit a 37 yard field goal to make the count 14-10.

Nelson, in fact, hit the left upright on his first attempt of the game with 10:24 to play in the same quarter. If he would have converted that kick, the Maroon Tide may have never made it to overtime. But after Nelson’s kick made it a four point game, the speedy senior Richard was right back at it as he took the ball up the middle on a fourth and two play from the Gators 46 and raced untouched for the touchdown.

Leo Gonzalez, who was perfect on four point after attempts, made the count 21-10 Picayune at halftime.

As the second half progressed, the Maroon Tide looked as if they would coast to the win up by that same 21-10 count late in the third period.

But Picayune’s third fumble of the night was returned by Demario Gainer deep in Picayune territory, and Gautier’s Kiwi McGillberry scored on a 2-yard run to draw the Gators with in 21-16.

Thomas then kept for two points, and the lead was just 21-18.

Another Tide turnover put Gautier in position to tie the game, and that’s exactly what Nelson did as he nailed a 32-yard field goal with six minutes left in regulation.

Picayune got the ball first in overtime, and Richard wasted no time in giving the Maroon Tide a lead as he scored on the first play from 10 yards out. It took Gautier three plays, but Gainer’s 5-yard scoring run ted the game again and sent it into the climactic second extra session.

This time, Gautier got the ball first and was flagged for a very costly holding penalty that pushed the ball back almost to the 20.

The Gators eventually settled for a 26-yard field goal by Nelson and took a 31-28 lead.

On the third play for Picayune, Hinojosa busted through the Gator defensive line and scored the game winning touchdown.

In addition to Richard, Cole came up big for the Maroon Tide as well as he ran for 91 yards offensively and came up with three turnovers on defense. In addition to his fumble recovery that led to the Maroon Tide’s first score, he also picked off a pair of Gautier passes as well in the win.

Also on defense for Picayune, end Jake Martinez had a pair of fumble recoveries and one big sack as well while linebacker Justin Flowers recorded two big sacks including one in the fourth period that forced Gautier at that point to kick for the tie instead of possibly taking the lead with a touchdown. Picayune now hosts an LCHS team that beat visiting Northeast Lauderdale 35-7 Friday.