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St. John Eagles eliminate Loyd Star

GULFPORT – Loyd Star’s greatest football season came to an endFriday night in Milner Stadium. The St. John Eagles produced anawesome defense and defeated the error-prone Hornets 32-20 in theSouth State Class 2A championship game. A large crowd, announced a4,462, witnessed the game.

St. John (13-1) advances to the Class 2A state championship gamewhich will be played Friday at Mississippi Veterans MemorialStadium in Jackson. The Eagles face Ackerman (13-1), a 42-12 winnerof Ruleville Central (12-1) in the North 2A title game.

Loyd Star head coach Anthony Hart watched his Hornets (11-3)make a valiant comeback against St. John. They fell behind theEagles 16-0 in the first quarter and trailed 19-0 on asecond-quarter, 43-yard field goal by St. John’s Chris Symmes.

Led by tailback Derrick Johnson, the Hornets came to life andreduced their deficit to 25-20 in the third quarter on a 67-yardscramble by quarterback Cass Brister. Johnson scored just beforehalftime on a 2-yard plunge to make it 19-6. In the third quarter,he intercepted St. John quarterback Garner Wetzel and returned thetheft 91 yards to paydirt.

“We made a lot of mistakes early in the game,” said Hart,recalling his team’s 2 interceptions and one lost fumble beforehalftime. “We fought back twice.

“I hate it (loss) for our seniors,” said Hart. “I am going tomiss coaching them. They are a great senior class.”

The Eagles limited Loyd Star to just 161 yards total offense.The Hornets only had one first down in the second half and finishedwith 124 rushing yards.

Interceptions led to a pair of quick first quarter touchdownsfor the Eagles. Josh Williams, a junior defensive back, interceptedBrister on Loyd Star’s first possession and returned the theft 27yards to the Hornet 15.

St. John senior running back Don Harrien scored three playslater for a 7-0 lead.

On the next series, Brister was intercepted on third down byHarrien at the Eagles’ 44. On second down, junior running back LeoCasey broke loose for a 50-yard scoring run. ST. John led 14-0 with3:18 left in the first quarter.

A high snap on a fourth down punt resulted in Brister runningout of the end zone for a safety on the last play of the firstquarter, giving St. John a 16-0 advantage.

After the Eagles went ahead 19-0 on Symmes’ field goal, LoydStar got its offense in gear. The Hornets marched 66 yards in 10plays. Johnson scored over left tackle, making it 19-6 and 3:31until halftime.

In the third quarter, the Eagles were at Loyd Star’s 20-yardline with a few inches to go for a first down. St. John head coachBuddy Singleton instructed Wetzel to go for a pass play on seconddown but he was picked off at the 9-yard line by Johnson whoreturned it for a TD.

Jody Britt’s PAT kick reduced St. John’s lead to 19-13.

The Eagles used a trick play on the next series. Faking areverse, Williams took the handoff from his flanker position andthrew a strike to Joe Barker who made it a 76-yard scoring play.St. John led 25-13.

On the next series, Brister scrambled to his right in search ofan open receiver. He dodged a tackler and sprinted 67 yards topaydirt. Loyd Star trailed 25-20 with 1:27 left in the thirdframe.

“Loyd Star made a ballgame out of it and they didn’t quit,” saidSingleton. “I told our offense to bow their necks and get it(touchdown).”

The Hornets were unable to achieve a first down on their nexttwo possessions and the Eagles took over at their own 33 with 7:33left in the game. They launched a 14-play, 67-yard march for theinsurance touchdown.

Wetzel hit Casey with a play-action pass for 13 yards and afirst-and-goal at Loyd Star’s 1-yard line. Harrien went around leftend on the next play.

Loyd Star defensive tackle Beau Morrison injured his left arm inthe first half. He had the arm securely wrapped and continued toplay hard. “St. John is strong. We gave them a good battletonight.”

On defense, the Hornets got a total of 21 tackles fromlinebacker Matthew Delaughter and 19 from linebacker CodyCovington. Johnson had 11 tackles and Jermaine Hunter 10.