Panthers escape ambush at Hazlehurst
HAZLEHURST – Coach Andrew Hickman’s generosity almost backfiredon him Friday night. With Brookhaven leading Hazlehurst 35-20 and4:15 left to play, Hickman decided to insert his second teamoffense. Two quick fumbles led to Hazlehurst touchdowns and thePanthers barely escaped with a 35-32 season-opening victory overthe Indians.
“We could have been beat,” said Hickman after the game. “We werefortunate to win. It shouldn’t have been that close.”
Hazlehurst had regained possession and moved to the Brookhaven28-yard line following a personal foul on the Panthers for a latehit. Indian quarterback Darren Eason launched 3 long passes beforetime expired, all of them intended for wide receiver Wesley Harris.The last one was knocked down by Panther safety Cornelius Allennear the goal line.
Asked about the final play, Allen said, “At first glance itlooked like I had (pass). Then it looked lik (Harris) had it.”
Allen, a senior tailback, rushed 21 times for 112 yards and 1touchdown to spark Brookhaven’s offense.
Two quick Panther miscues ignited Hazlehurst’s comeback. Afterthe Indians returned Kendell Nickleson’s first down fumble for atouchdown, they recovered Allen’s fumble on the ensuing kickoff atBrookhaven’s 31 and needed just 4 plays to reach the end zone.
Senior tailback Damian Gary circled right end from 5 yards outand it was 35-32 with 2:04 left to play.
On the next series, Brookhaven was just short of a first downand had to punt. Williams launched a 40-yard punt and Hazlehurstregained possession with 50 seconds left in the game, 69 yards awayfrom the winning touchdown.
“I don’t llike to see the ball in the air like that,” saidHickman, referring to Eason’s long passes. “Any thing can happen ina situation like that and I’ve seen it happen. They had themomentum.”
Brookhaven and Hazlehurst had battled to a 14-14 halftimedeadlock. A 35-yard toucdhdown pass from Panther quarterback BillyWilliams to wide receiver Maurice Parker and a PAT kick by DanielGates had gained a tie with 8 seconds left in the first half.
The Panthers scored twice in the third quarter. Parker caught a28-yard TD pass from Williams and fullback Josh Anderson raced 31yards for a TD. Anderson’s score was set up by Emmanuel Perkins whointercepted Eason at the Hazlehurst 42 and returned the theft tothe 31. It was his second interception of the game.
A 20-yard scoring jaunt by Allen pushed the Panthers ahead 35-20with 9:24 left in the game. Gates was a perfect 5-for-5 on extrapoints, with Williams serving as holder.
Hazlehurst coach Willie Brown was disappointed by the defeat butencouraged by his team’s effort. “We had some people make some bigplays for us. I’m proud of our guys. I thought we had a chance towin at the end.”
In the first half, Hazlehurst got a 61 touchdown run from EllisFair and a 14-yard TD pass from Eason to DeAnthony Mazie.Brookhaven’s first touchdown of the season came on a 2- yard optionrun by Williams, capping a 60-yard drive.
7 – 35
12 – 32
Brookhaven, Williams 2 run (Gates kick),2:07.
Hazlehurst, Fair 61 run (pass faield),7:03.
Hazlehurst, Mazzie 14 pass from Eason (Brown pass fromEason), 3:12.
Brookhaven, Parker 35 pass from Williams (Gates kick),:08.
Brookhaven, Parker 28 pass from Williams (Gates kick),8:20.
Hazlehurst, F. Williams 37 run (run failed),6:55.
Brookhaven, Anderson 31 run (Gates kick),4:22.
Brookhaven, Allen 20 run (Gates kick),9:24.
Hazlehurst, 67 fumble return (run failed),4:00.
Hazlehurst, Gary 5 run (pass failed), 2:04.
RUSHING: Brookhaven, Allen 21-112, Anderson 16-91,Williams 10-73, Nickelson 1-0. Hazlehurst, Fair 14-105, Gary 9-96,F. Williams 4-49, Eason 6-(-8).
PASSING: Brookhaven, Williams 5-8-0, 90. Hazlehurst,Eason 7-19-2, 91.
RECEIVING: Brookhaven, Parker 2-63, Anderson 1-5,Tobias2-22. Hazlehurst, Harris 3-67, Mazie 2-21, F. Williams 1-11, Gary1-(-8).