2nd half lifts Panthers over Hazlehurst

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 3, 2002

Senior safety Josh Crawford called it motivation. Crawford andhis Brookhaven teammates overcame a ragged first half Friday nightand defeated the Hazlehurst Indians 24-15 on King Field in theseason opener for both teams.

Hazlehurst had led 9-7 at halftime before the Panthers came tolife with 17 unanswered third-quarter points to take control of thecontest. Brookhaven had been limited to a minus-16 yards rushingthe first half and just two first downs, ;plus being penalized ninetimes for 43 yards.

“We had motivation,” said Crawford. “Our defense did a betterjob and we went from there.”

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Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Johns went to work in the thirdquarter, igniting the Panthers with his scrambling and passing. His11-yard scoring pass to flanker Kendell Nickelson put Brookhaven up24-9 with 1:06 left in the third frame.

Johns was Brookhaven’s leading rusher with 63 yards on 6carries. He also completed 6 of 12 passes for 73 yards. His 25-yardscramble on the first snap; of the second half was followed by a28-yard pass to Nickelson which set up a 7-yard TD plunge by seniorrunning back Josh Anderson.

Johns recalled the first half which saw him throwing a 22-yardTD pass to Nick Downs on Brookhaven’s first offensive play of theyear. It came following a fumble recovery deep in Indianterritory.

“We started out rough in the first half and kept getting in thehole,” said Johns. “We weren’t able to execute.” He was sitting onthe training room table with an ice bag on his left ankle after thegame.

Johns said head coach Tucker Peavey made some halftimeadjustments. “I owe it all to Coach Peavey. “He gave me the chanceto run the football. I have faith in myself and I trust in the Lordto carry me.”

Peavey, 40, was making his head coaching debut. A veteranassistant college coach for nearly two decades, he had returnedhome to coach his high school alma mater. He’s a 1980 BHSgraduate.

“Thank goodness it’s a W,” said Peavey. “We made too manyunforced errors in the first half. We didn’t do a good job coachingthe kids and they didn’t line up right,” which resulted in severaloffsides and illegal procedure penalties.

“I told our guys at halftime they were shooting themselves inthe foot,” Peavey pointed out. “Those are growing pains and we haveto grow from this game.”

Peavey said Johns was a catalyst in the offense. “Jimmy madesome big plays and in this offense you have to make big plays. Iwas pleased with his effort.”

Hazlehurst coach Willie Brown had his team thinking upset whenthey held a 9-7 halftime lead. With Brookhaven punting on fourthdown, the low snap had squirted past Domenick DiPaolo and he kickedthe ball out of the back of the end zone for a 2-point safety,giving Hazlehurst the advantage.

The Indians had tied the game at 7-7 when defensive end KevinHolmes fell on a fumble in the end zone after Johns and Nickelsonfailed to hook up on a pitchout. Roy Howard added the extra pointkick with 11:53 left in the first half.

DiPaolo kicked the extra point for a 14-9 lead and the Panthersnever trailed again. DiPaolo, a star goalkeeper on the soccer team,also kicked a 32-yard field goal after performing a trumpet solowith the band at halftime.

Brown pointed to his team’s two first-quarter fumbles insideBrookhaven’s 5-yard line. “We had the opportunities to score 21points in the first quarter if we didn’t turn the ball over.

“Brookhaven’s offensive and defensive lines were big and theyhad their best athletes on defense,” said Brown. “Their quarterbackis pretty good.”

Hazlehurst got a game-high 125 rushing yards on 17 carries fromrunning back Fred Williams. The Indians also got a 17-yard,fourth-quarter TD pass from quarterback Fred Robinson to widereceiver Damoyn Carroll and 7:46 left in the game.

On defense, Brookhaven was led by strong safetyLaKendrick Maxwell who made 8 solo tackles and 2 assists. Outsidelinebacker Belma Cager had 8 solo stops. Julius Lloyd and JoshCrawford each had 5 tackles.