On paper, it was No. 4 against No. 1.
North Pike knew that it had its work cut out against a higher seed in Quitman in Fridays Class 4A opening round playoff matchup.
But that didn’t seem to matter to Head Coach Chris Smith and the Jaguars who grabbed an early lead and never relinquished it, topping the Panthers 21-19 to advance.
“We had a couple of chances to put the game away early, but we had a couple of turnovers” Smith said. “But the kids made up for it and played hard. We are excited. It is a big win anytime a No. 4 beats a No. 1.
The young defense for the Jaguars (6-6) stepped up early forcing the Panthers to punt. Senior quarterback Alijah Martin then went to work moving the ball down the field on a long run setting North Pike up with great field position.
He took advantage, tossing a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jermarius Lewis. Jace Brown connected on the PAT putting North Pike up 7-0 halfway through the opening quarter.
But the Panthers showed why they were the No. 1 seed in District 5-4A, answering right back with a 48-yard rushing touchdown. The 2-point conversion was unsuccessful keeping Jaguars on top.
For the second-consecutive drive, Martin had another long run putting the Jaguars in prime position to add to their lead. And they did just that as Martin slipped into the end zone on a 1-yard run and with the Brown extra point North Pike increased its advantage to 14-6.
With about three-minutes to go before the half, the Panthers pulled close once again following a 40-yard touchdown pass and with the successful PAT, the North Pike lead shrunk to one at 14-13.
Trying to pull away once again, the Jaguars wanted to get one more score before the half. A long pass play helped to set that up but a lost fumble at the Quitman 20-yard line dashed their hopes.
After recording a receiving touchdown in the first half, Lewis added another score in the second, this time on the ground giving the Jaguars a 21-13 lead.
The Panthers pulled closer at 21-19 and looked to grab the lead late in the contest. Holding the two-point advantage with two minutes to go, the Jaguar defense stepped up with its largest stop of the night, preventing the Panthers from converting a 4th and 8.
From there North Pike ran out the clock preserving the win and drawing cheers from the many in attendance dressed in Columbia and white, who made the two-and-a-half-hour trip from Summit to cheer on the Jaguars. After the game, Smith said that he was very pleased to see the number of people who came to show support.
“We had a great crowd tonight,” he said. “I’m proud to see it. I didn’t know how many people were going to travel two-and-a-half hours, but we had a great crowd tonight and it was exciting. I thank them for being there.”
North Pike will now return home to host Poplarville in the second round on Friday. “They are a good football team and they are playoff warriors,” Smith said of the Hornets.