Getting to the playoffs has been difficult but not impossible for McComb football in recent memory however the feeling of winning a playoff game is one that the Tigers haven’t felt in several years.
But that all changed Friday night as they overcame some early struggles to pull out a 40-30 win at home over the visiting Vancleave Bulldogs.
The win erases a 14-year drought since McComb won a playoff game.
“We talked about being a part of something that is bigger than all of us,” McComb head coach Willie Brown said. “We always want to be a part of something like that. This is not one person who is going to make this thing go. We wanted to let the guys know that it was time to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves, so we had to create something and I think that this is the beginning stages of that.”
Getting the win was special for the entire Tiger team, especially senior quarterback Chris Roberson who accounted for five touchdowns on the evening.
“We won our first playoff game since I don’t know when,” said an emotional Roberson. “It is a good feeling and as a senior too. For real, this is all I ever wanted.”
The Tigers (7-2) got off to a bit of a slow start in the contest. The Bulldogs got the ball first and immediately went to work, putting its powerful run game on display exposing a Tiger defense which had difficulty slowing down the rush attack.
A 7-play, 62-yard drive wrapped when Dayan Bilbo scored from eight yards out giving the visitors from the Gulf Coast a 7-0 lead.
McComb tried to answer but struggled to get its offense going.
With only seconds to go in the first quarter, the McComb defense buckled down and forced a 3-and-out.
After the Bulldogs punted on the first play of the second quarter, Roberson and the Tiger offense found its groove. Roberson hit tight end Jameer Lewis on a slant route and the junior did the rest racing into the end zone from 40 yards out getting the crowd on the home side back into the contest.
The two-point conversion was missed but the Tigers pulled within one at 7-6.
The Bulldogs answered back with a 28-yard field goal by Aiden Baudier making it a 10-6 game.
Two drives later, it looked as if McComb was back against the wall once again but an interception gave the Tigers new life.
And once again they quickly took advantage. A 21-yard touchdown pass from Roberson to Jeremiah Ratliff on the ensuing play and a successful two-point conversion gave McComb its first lead of the game at 14-10.
However the momentum swung right back over to the visiting side. The Tiger defense continued to struggle getting consistent stops, against the talented Bulldog rushing attack. Vancleave went to its leading rusher in Bilbo who ran five of six plays on the ensuing drive including a 15-yard touchdown run giving the visitors a 17-14 lead.
McComb tried to answer and had a golden opportunity to do so with great field position. But two throws to the end zone were ruled incomplete before the second quarter clock struck 0:00.
On McComb’s second drive of the third quarter, penalties had the Tigers facing a 2nd and 24 from the Bulldog 44-yard line. So, Roberson dialed up a deep pass to a fellow senior in Edric Spurlock who scored giving McComb the lead once again at 20-17.
“All that I was thinking was that we were down and I had to pick myself up,” said Spurlock who finished with four catches for 98 yards to go along with his score. “I was open all game, I was just feeling it, I was in the zone.”
The next two drives were key for McComb as Roberson scored rushing touchdowns of 5-yards and 18-yards further distancing the Tigers from the Bulldogs.
After trading rushing scores, the Bulldogs inched closer with a passing touchdown late, but it wasn’t enough as McComb rode out with the win.
In addition to Spurlock's big night, Ratliff also turned in a stellar performance with five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.
It wasn’t their best performance, but the Tiger defenders made the plays when they needed to in order to keep Vancleave from getting into a rhythm.
“We had to stick to our keys (to success) and stay to what the coaches had for us and play hard, play ball,” said senior cornerback Kharel Coney.
McComb moves on to Round 2 where it will visit Mendenhall next Friday.