By Jason Pittman
South Pike kicked off this year’s playoff campaign not only with success but in impressive fashion, defeating visiting Bay High 40-15 Friday night.
South Pike fired on all cylinders, scoring in myriad ways and dominating the game on the ground with two rushers gaining more than 100 yards apiece.
“I thought we were a complete football team tonight, especially in the second half, South Pike head coach Brinson Wall said. "We can be pretty good, when we get out of our own way."
South Pike found trouble finishing drives in the first quarter.
The Eagles took the opening possession from their own 30 yard line and marched down field on 12 plays to the Bay High 31 before turning the ball over on downs.
The defense followed suit with its own struggles. Bay High used nine plays to cover 69 yards, capping off their drive with a 14-yard touchdown run by running back Noah Cutter. The Tigers enjoyed 7-0 lead after a successful extra point.
The second quarter saw more of the same for South Pike offensively.
After a big kick return by DJ McNeil, the Eagles began the second drive on the Bay High 21. They advanced to the 4 yard line before coming up short on fourth down causing consecutive turnover on downs for the offense.
However, the Eagles’ defense began to turn things around, forcing a quick 3-and-out and the tide begin to swing in favor of the home team. A high snap sailed over the punter’s head and out of the back of the end zone giving the hosts their first score of the game via safety.
The Eagles’ offense finally got into a consistent rhythm, closing out a drive on its next possession when running back Kam Reynolds burst through the middle of the Tigers’ defense for a 34-yard touchdown run. Tyger Bateaste rushed in for the two-point conversion, putting South Pike up 10-7 midway through the second.
South Pike’s defense forced another quick punt and the Eagles’ offense appeared on its way to another score before disaster struck.
After six plays covering more than 70 yards, Eagles quarterback Chris Royal fumbled the ball on the goal line, and a Bay High defender recovered it. The Tigers took over at their own 1 yard line.
South Pike’s defense answered the call again, stuffing Bay High on three straight plays and forcing a punt from its own end zone. The Eagles sent everyone after the punter and were able to block the attempt, getting their second safety after the ball bounced out of the back of the end zone.
The Eagles went into the half up 12-7.
In the second half, South Pike managed to take control of the game and run away with the lead.
Reynolds wowed the crowd after fielding a punt at the Eagles’ 15, dodging defenders and sprinting 85 yards down the left sideline to pay dirt.
He struck again in the fourth quarter, taking a carry 14 yards for a score.
Linebacker Alvin Coney got in on the scoring after picking off an errant Bay High pass and returning it 45 yards for a pick-6.
Not long thereafter, Lajorian Martin added his name to the scoring column with a touchdown run from a yard out to wrap of the scoring barrage from the Eagles.
South Pike moves on to face a familiar opponent in the Poplarville Hornets this week. It will mark the third straight year that the Eagles will travel to face the Hornets. In the last two years, Poplarville ended South Pike's run with third round losses. The Eagles are hoping for a different outcome this time around in the second round.
“We are going to find out what we are made of,” Wall said. "They (Poplarville) are probably the best 4A team in the South."