It was a tale of two halves Friday night for South Pike who overcame its early struggles and turnovers, out-scoring McComb 20-0 in the final two quarters to walk away with a 28-18 win in the district 6-4A opener for both schools. The game, which was played at Southwest Mississippi Community College, was called with 1:48 to go after officials with both schools agreed to end the contest due to the threat of inclement weather.
“We knew that if we could quit turning the football over and do what we are supposed to do that we can get back into the football game,” South Pike head coach Brinson Wall said.
A huge crowd was on-hand to witness the contest between the old Pike County rivals. It was standing room only on the elevated land behind the north end zone at John I. Hurst Stadium as many fans could not get a seat in the packed bleachers.
The defenses for the Eagles (7-0, 1-0) and Tigers (4-2, 0-1) got off to strong starts keeping their opponents at bay in the first quarter. South Pike quarterback Dontavious Turner struggled with turnovers, fumbling on back-to-back drives keeping the momentum on the McComb side.
Early in the second quarter, Turner committed his third turnover when he was intercepted by Qua’Tavis Harris who returned the ball 42 yards for the score, putting McComb up 6-0.
Turner quickly regrouped and moved his team down the field, showcasing his skills as a passer and runner. The drive stalled around midfield forcing a punt, but the ball was downed at the McComb 1-yard line, leaving the Tigers with their work cut out for them.
The Tigers moved the ball to the 4-yard line giving punter Ryan Tidwell a little bit of breathing room. But his punt was partially blocked and went out of bounds at the 22-yard line giving Turner and the Eagles a golden opportunity.
And the senior delivered on the first play of the ensuing drive rushing past the Tiger defenders and into the end zone. The 2-point run by Angus Armstrong was good giving South Pike its first lead of the ball game at 8-6 with 3:38 to go in the first half.
The momentum seemed to have swung over to the visiting sideline, but it didn’t stay for long.
The ensuing kickoff was returned all the way down to the Eagle 10-yard line setting the Tigers up with 1st and goal. On the second play of the drive, junior quarterback Chris Roberson connected with Edric Spurlock on a 17-yard touchdown strike. The 2-point conversion was unsuccessful but McComb regained the lead at 12-8.
With the momentum and the lead, the Tigers caught the Eagles off-guard recovering an onside kick giving them the ball at the South Pike 36-yard line. A key 18-yard pass play from Roberson to Spurlock kept the drive alive on 3rd and 16. And two plays later Roberson tossed his second touchdown on the night, this time a 12-yarder to Ja’qaveon Anderson increasing the Tiger lead to 18-8 at the half.
Following the intermission, Turner and the Eagles put together their most efficient drive of the game. A 12-play 68-yard drive that burned about four and a half minutes off the clock wrapped with Turner running it in from 10 yards out. Armstrong added the 2-point conversion pulling the Eagles within two at 18-16. Kadarius Jackson, who had a 13-yard rush on the fourth play of the drive, said that the message was clear at the half.
“The message was that we just have to keep fighting, and keep pushing,” said Jackson who finished with 102 rushing yards on 15 carries. “The game plan changed and we got it right.”
The rejuvenation by the Eagles seemed to have spread to the defense as well as South Pike took advantage of a couple of McComb penalties and kept the Tigers’ offense from creating more of the magic it displayed in the first half. McComb lined up to punt but the kick was blocked. Tylonde Bateaste scooped up the ball and returned it 15 yards for the touchdown giving South Pike the lead once again at 22-18.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles added to that lead when Kam Reynolds plunged into the end zone from three yards out making the score 28-18.
About halfway through the quarter, South Pike had possession and was moving the ball down the field when raindrops began to fall in Summit. With about two minutes to go, the rain got heavier as flashes of lightning began to light up the sky in Summit. Turner got loose on a 48-yard run down to inside the five-yard line for what turned out to be the final play of the game.
“We had to step up and play our game. In the first half we weren’t playing our game. We had to come back in the second half and play like ourselves,” explained Turner who also gave praise to his defense saying, “keep doing what y’all are doing.”
Turner led the way for the Eagles with 167 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
McComb was led by Roberson who completed the last eight of his 11 pass attempts on the night for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
After the game, McComb head coach Willie Brown was pleased with how his team performed but he is disappointed that they couldn’t keep it going in the second half.
“We were not able to maintain our composure, sometimes we fell apart,” he said. “We just have to learn that we have to go through the fire. It is a learning experience. We don’t have anything to be ashamed of. We just have to learn to not lose our composure and play a complete game.”