Panthers topple Maroon Tide 31-26

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, October 12, 2013

A stout Pascagoula running game led by Daryl Tart denied Picayune’s Dodd Lee his 200th career coaching victory on Friday night.

Tart, a senior making his first start, rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries as the Panthers stunned the Maroon Tide 31-26 at War Memorial Stadium. Picayune drops to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Region 4-5A play, while Pascagoula improves to 6-1, 3-0.

“I wish we could put in an offense that quick and have that much success with it,” said Lee, who is 199-80 in 25 years as a head coach, 18 at Picayune. “I don’t even know the kid’s (Tart’s) name. They blocked us. They lined up and blocked us. We didn’t tackle. They out-tackled and out-blocked us.”

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Pascagoula took the lead for good on a juggling 24-yard touchdown reception by Jaylen Smith with seven seconds left in the first half, then added a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter. Tart did most of the heavy lifting early, then Alphonso Allen ran 27 yards for the touchdown and a 28-17 Pascagoula lead with 8:59 left in the third.

Picayune answered with Deandre Anderson’s 65-yard return of a short kickoff to pull the Maroon Tide within 28-24 with 8:49 left in the third. Picayune slowed Pascagoula the rest of the quarter but could not capitalize, with two drives ending in a turnover on downs and an interception by the Panthers’ Perie’A Tate early in the fourth.

Montie Smith’s field goal put the Panthers up 31-24 with 5:54 to play, and Picayune’s next drive ended in a fourth-down incompletion at the Pascagoula 30 with 1:37 to play. Pascagoula took an intentional safety with one second to play to make it a 5-point game, then Picayune’s lateral-filled kickoff return was stopped near midfield as time as expired.

“We just came out and had to play a real physical brand of football,” Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims said. “Credit Picayune, it’s a dad-gone dog fight. But as we all know, it’s not round 1 that counts. It’s round 2. We know if we get a chance to meet them again in the playoffs, it’s going to be a slobber-knocker again.”

Pascagoula led 21-17 at halftime thanks to some outstanding early running by Tart. The senior carried the ball on all eight plays of the Panthers’ opening drive, accounting for 72 yards and ending with a 10-yard touchdown.

Tart had 17 carries for 130 yards in the first half, adding a 4-yard run to put Pascagoula up 14-7 early in the second quarter. Picayune took a 17-14 lead late in the half, getting a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Boderick Scott, a 10-yard Scott-to-Kardarius Cross touchdown pass and a 21-yard Jackson Samples field goal.

The Panthers took the lead back just before the half, driving 66 yards in eight plays in 1:09. Tart ran four yards for a first down on fourth-and-3, then Drew Dunn found Smith for the touchdown.

Smith outleaped Picayune’s Anderson to get two hands on the ball, then juggled it before Anderson got a piece of the pigskin. But Smith maintained his concentration, finally pulling in the ball in the back of the end zone for the score with seven seconds left in the half.

Picayune rushed for 224 yards as a team, but star senior Preston Dedeaux managed only 78 yards on 25 carries. Anderson was the Maroon Tide’s leading rusher with 82 yards on five carries, including a 56-yarder in the first quarter.

“We’ve got to get our kids more motivated,” Lee said. “That’s a big game, and (Pascagoula) played with more confidence and emotion that we did. And that’s our fault. … Our kids just didn’t play with the confidence that I thought Pascagoula did tonight.”

Pascagoula is at Long Beach next Friday, while Picayune hosts George County.