Panthers smack PRC

Published 2:52 am Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pearl River Central defensive coordinator Seth Smith emerged from the Blue Devils’ locker room about 20 minutes after it was over.

Even if it was over long before that.

Pascagoula quarterback Will Tomes turned in a splendid performance and the Panthers throttled Pearl River Central 34-6 on a chilly Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.

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The loss sends PRC (7-4, 4-3 in Region 4-5A) into a first-round matchup in the South State playoffs with Wayne County, the No. 1 seed in Region 3-5A. Wayne County (8-2) has won eight straight. It was the Blue Devils’ first loss in four games.

“We just couldn’t get any pressure on (Tomes). That’s the thing we’ve been able to do pretty well this year,” Smith said. “They picked up our blitz real well. (Tomes) was definitely the difference in the game, and Pascagoula’s defense played well, too.”

PRC scored first, after the Panthers (7-3, 5-2 in 4-5A) fumbled the ball away in punt formation deep in their own territory. The Blue Devils’ Lock Walker scored on a 5-yard run with 3:51 left in the first quarter, but the extra-point try was blocked.

The Panthers’ offense didn’t start clicking until late in the first half, and they scored their first points when Stacy Warren recovered a Dylan Spiers fumble before scoring on a 31-yard return.

“We’re a rhythm offense, and we never really got into any rhythm tonight,” PRC coach Eric Collins said.

Still, neither team had the upper hand until the final moments of the first half.

Tomes took the Panthers 73 yards in 10 plays for their first offensive touchdown with 52 seconds left in the half. P.J. Thomas scored on a 1-yard run, and then Pascagoula’s Grant Warren delivered a spinning onside kick that didn’t appear to cover the necessary 10 yards to make it a live ball.

Until the Blue Devils touched it. Ramon Patton recovered the ball for the Panthers, and two plays later, Tomes got the ball on a slip screen to Will Dennis, who scored on a 54-yard reception just 26 seconds before halftime.

“The ball only went 6 or 7 yards,” Collins said. “We were just eager to make a play, and we didn’t make a smart play.”

Lewis Sims, Pascagoula’s first-year coach, said it was the first time Warren had tried that particular kind of onside kick, at least in a game.

“We call that play ‘torpedo,’ and Grant cut across the ball a little too high with his foot,” Sims said. “We figured their were 50-something seconds on the clock, and it was a good time to try it.”

On the kickoff to open the second half, Dennis nearly reached midfield on the return before trying to lateral to a teammate. Jevon Detto, the PRC placekicker, recovered a fumble, but the Blue Devils couldn’t manage a first down and turned the ball over on downs.

Moments later, Tomes hit Carlos Weathersby deep for a 50-yard completion before scoring on a quarterback draw from 11 yards out. Warren would then kick field goals of 42 and 30 yards for the game’s final points.

PRC linebacker Cody Barrow, the team’s leading tackler, didn’t play in the second half after sustaining a broken finger. The Blue Devils lost a couple other defensive starters to injuries during the course of the game.

A victory over Pascagoula would have guaranteed PRC a home playoff game, but now the Blue Devils will hit the road for Wayne County.

“Wayne County was in our district last year, but they’re a different team, and we are, too,” Collins said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to compete in the playoffs.”