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McComb holds off Panthers 28-21

McCOMB – A combination of four Brookhaven turnovers and McComb’sbig offensive plays allowed the Tigers to hold off the visitingPanthers 28-21 Friday night in C.C. Moore Stadium. Powered by thefour-touchdown performance of sophomore tailback Michael Lewis, theTigers roared to a 21-6 third quarter lead and the defense turnedback the Panthers on the last series of the game at McComb’s 6-yardline.

Addressing his team after the game, Brookhaven head coach AndrewHickman said, “We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out oftime.”

Directed by senior quarterback Billy Williams, the Panthers cameroaring back on a humid, sweat-soaked night. Williams rushed thefootball 14 times for 158 yards and a touchdown. He passed for 104yards, including a 21-yard score to Cornelius Allen in thesecond-half surge.

Brookhaven had regained possession of the football with 1:12left in the game and 74 yards away from paydirt. Operating out ofthe shotgun formation, Williams threw 10 straight passes on thehectic series, his longest going to Allen for 39 yards on firstdown. Williams threw his last completion, a 7-yarder to widereceiver Josh Patrick, as time expired.

McComb improved its record to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Region6-4A race. Brookhaven fell to 4-2 and 2-1.

“We dropped too many passes and we made way too many mistakes,”said Hickman, referring to the three lost fumbles and one passinterception. “You can’t win big games and make that manymistakes.”

Brookhaven dug a hole on the opening kickoff. The Panthersfumbled the football and McComb recovered at the 30-yard line.Lewis went 25 yards around left end on first down and scored on thenext play.

Lewis ran the 2-point conversion and McComb led 8-0, just 51seconds into the game.

The Panthers regrouped and went 64 yards in 12 plays with theensuing kickoff. Allen scored off left tackle but the conversionpass from Williams was low, leaving the scoreboard at 8-6.

McComb took a 14-6 lead late in the first half. The Tigers roseto the occasion and stopped Brookhaven on fourth down at its 38.Seven plays later, Lewis had his second TD of the night, going infrom 5 yards out.

A key play was a short pass from Tiger quarterback Chad Lyons towingback Marcus Gatlin. It became a 27-yard gainer, as Gatlintwisted and squirted through Panther defenders for a first down atBrookhaven’s 14.

McComb first-year head coach Ted Milton was pleased to see hisTigers prevail in what has been a rebuilding year. They had losttwo close games, losing to Warren Central in overtime and toLawrence County in a region test two weeks ago.

“Our effort was fantastic,” said Milton. “Both teams played veryhard. It was a great football game.

“It was our time to win one,” he added. “The football gods wereshining down on us tonight. We got beat down at the end but ourkids rose up.”

Milton watched his Tigers take a 21-6, third-quarter lead. TheTigers capitalized on a fumble by fullback Josh Anderson to takecontrol at Brookhaven’s 12. Three plays later, Lewis ran his rightend for the TD and Patrick Barnes kicked the PAT.

Williams broke loose on a 74-yard gallop to the McComb 1-yardline. He scored on the next play. Williams ran the 2-pointconversion and it was 21-14.

McComb responded on the next series. Lewis streaked 67 yards tothe Brookhaven 8 and scored 4 plays later. McComb held a 28-14 leadwith 2:09 left in the third.

With 4:19 left in the game, McComb running back Johanathan Smithfumbled and Zach Jones recovered for the Panthers at the Tigers’19. Williams hit Allen with a short, fourth-down pass which becamea touchdown as Allen darted past defenders.

Daniel Gates kicked the PAT and Brookhaven trailed 28-21 with2:54 left in the game.

“I thought Billy Williams played a real good game,” saidHickman. “We had some key players come down with cramps and that’smy fault. We need to be in better shape.”

Hickman said he was surprised by his team’s inability to rushthe football against McComb. “I thought we could run the ballbetter than we did.”

Milton said McComb’s strength is rush defense and “our defensivecoaches had a real good game plan. We had been giving up 2.9 yards(per carry).

“We wanted to make Brookhaven throw the football. Theirquarterback is a good athlete but we didn’t do a good job on ourpass coverage. We are a better tackling team than what we showedtonight.”