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Gautier eludes Panthers 20-13

PASCAGOULA – Dutch Binion Field, on the campus of PascagoulaHigh School, has seen its share of good high school football gamesthis season. Friday night was no exception as Division 8-4Achampion Gautier hosted Division 6-4A runner-up Brookhaven, in thefirst round of the Class 4A South state playoffs.

Gautier shares War Memorial Stadium with Pascagoula High.

Defense, penalties and turnovers played an important part in thegame. The Panthers, plagued by numerous penalties and 2 crucialfumbles, fell to the Gators 20-13 in a defensive struggle.

Gautier (9-2) enterains Laurel in the second round of the stateplayoffs Friday.

“Our offense really stunk it up tonight” said Gator head coachDon Nelson. “Our defense carried us.”

Brookhaven (7-3) deferred the coin toss to start the game.Gautier took the opening kickoff and drove 62 yards in 10 plays.The Panther defense stalled the drive at the Brookhaven 18 and theGators settled for a 3-0 lead. Michael McLaughlin split theuprights with a 36-yard field goal at the 8:12 mark of the openingperiod. Key plays in the drive was Gautier’s ability to convert 3second-down opportunities into first downs.

During this drive, Panther defensive back Thomas Barlowsustained a concussion as he tackled Gator receiver Fred Milenderon a pass route. After several motionless minutes of lying on thefield, Barlow sat up and eventually walked off under his own power.He did not return to the game. On the bus ride home, he was feelingfine.

Both teams exchanged several possessions, before the Gatorsstruck paydirt with 5:04 remaining in the first half.

“People have said all year that our offense was good and ourdefense was poor,” added Nelson. “Our defense really came throughtonight. We messed around on offense.”

Terrell Davis fielded a 35-yard punt by Panther Daniel Boyd, atthe Brookhaven 48. Davis did not stop until he reached the goalline. McLaughlin’s PAT kick was good and Gautier had extended itslead to 10-0.

McLaughlin, one of the most sought-after kickers in the state,tacked on another 36-yard field goal with 2:03 left in the secondquarter. The 42-yard drive lasted 7 plays and took 1:48 off theclock.

Gautier entertained a 13-0 lead at the intermission.

Brookhaven took the second half kickoff and proceeded to marchup the field. Several penalties forced the Panthers to punt fromtheir own 11. A 16-yard punt set up the Gators’ next scoringopportunity.

Gautier, starting at the Brookhaven 27, took only 4 plays toscore. Gator quarterback Leonard Nutter found split end FredMilender across the middle with a 16-yard scoring strike.McLaughlin’s second PAT kick of the night gave Nelson’s ballclub a20-0 lead and the Gators appeared to be headed

for a blowout.

Two minutes later, Brookhaven’s offense came to life. From itsown 20, the Panthers found the endzone in 6 plays. Junior tailbackCornelius Allen went in from 4 yards out. Josh Brister’s PAT kickwas successful and Brookhaven’s deficit was reduced to 20-7.

Key plays in the drive were a 40-yard run by quarterback FredPerkins on second-and-seven and a 17-yard jaunt by Allen on asecond-and-eight play.

The Panther defense, seeing new life, held Gautier in check forthe remainder of the game.

Brookhaven climaxed an 11-play, 59-yard drive that lasted 8minutes, 32 seconds. Perkins called his own number from the 1-yardline. Brister’s PAT try sailed wide left to bring the Pantherswithin 7 points, 20-13.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Panthers had another opportunitybut started at their own 2. They could only move 14 yards before afourth down pass fell incomplete.

“Our team played better in the second half,” said Pantheroffensive coordinator Ryan Ross. “We never gave up.”

Brookhaven head coach Greg Wall was unavailable for commentafter the game.

Defensively, Perkins had 8 tackles (6 solos). Nick Smith had 7tackles (4 solos). Perkins and Smith collected sacks. Don Expose,Daniel Walker, Ron Mackabee and Perry Brumfield combined for sacks.Allen had a interception. Mackabee had a fumble recovery.