BHS defense holds off Hazlehurst

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

AZLEHURST — Defensive end Phillip Tobias and his fellowteammates provided a formidable defense Friday night in their 2003season opener. The Panthers rose to the occasion and turned backthe upset-minded Hazlehurst Indians 12-8.

Tobias, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound senior, accounted for 3quarterback sacks and 2 more tackles for losses. He also scoredwhat would be the winning touchdown when he forced a fumble andfell on it in the end zone, giving Brookhaven a 12-0,second-quarter lead.

“Coach said our defense might have to carry the team this year,”said Tobias as he walked to the dressing room. “We can do it if weneed to.

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“I still don’t like the fact that (Indians) got 8 (points) onus,” he continued. “We are going to have to step it up nextweek.”

Brookhaven hosts Class 5A power Vicksburg Friday night in itshome debut. The Gators lost to Southaven 33-18 in their seasonopener at Vicksburg.

Hazlehurst’s defense had just taken over on downs after stoppingBrookhaven at the Indians’ 2-yard line. On first down, Hazlehurstrunning back Fred Williams took the handoff from quarterback FredRobinson, was tackled by Tobias in the end zone and fumbled.

Tobias pounced on the football and Brookhaven owned a 12-0 leadwith 4:27 left in the first half.

Brookhaven defensive tackle Jessie Bowman was happy to get aseason-opening victory. The Panthers held Hazlehurst to 76 yardstotal offense. Free safety Jarius Wilson intercepted 2 passes andT.J. Qualls claimed the other theft.

“We wanted to shut (Indians) down,” said Bowman. “Hazlehurst hasa lot of speed. It felt good to get back on the field again.”

Bowman helped hold Hazlehurst to 76 yards total offense.

Brookhaven’s first touchdown of the season came on a play-actionpass from quarterback Jimmy Johns to wide receiver John WayneHavard. Johns faked a handoff, spotted Havard breaking past thedefender and threw a strike for a 76- yard TD.

Freshman Will Thibodeaux attempted the extra point kick and theball hit the left upright. Brookhaven led 6-0 with 8:23 left in thefirst half.

Havard, a senior transfer from Brookhaven Academy, caught 2passes for 80 yards. Johns completed 7 of 11 for 115 yards.

Brookhaven head coach Tucker Peavey said he was happy to win theopener but disappointed with his team’s offensive performance. “Weplayed a very poor offensive game. We didn’t do well in any phase.We didn’t block and we laid too many balls on the ground,” losing 3fumbles. His Panthers managed just 91 rushing yards.

“Our defense played great,” Peavey pointed out. “Hazlehurst hasa good team.”

Hazlehurst, the defending Region 7-3A champion, got untracked inthe second half. The Indians got a dazzling 40-yard touchdown runby wingback Darren Eason who had started the game atquarterback.

On the 2-point conversion try, quarterback Fred Robinson hittight end Damoyn Carroll in the end zone. Hazlehurst trailed 12-8with 1:34 left in the third quarter.

While Brookhaven’s offense sputtered the defense stood tall inthe fourth quarter. The Indians got a 40-yard run on first downfrom Williams who was tackled at Brookhaven’s 10-yard line.

Eason gained 4 yards on first down and fullback Dexter Douglasgained 2 more. Robinson threw incomplete to Carroll on third andfourth downs, allowing the Panthers to take over.

Brookhaven was forced to punt and Hazlehurst took over at thePanthers’ 45-yard line. Two plays lost 6 yards and Robinson wasintercepted by Wilson on third down.

Wilson intercepted Robinson again on the next series, this timeat Brookhaven’s 36-yard line. He returned the pick 44 yards to theIndians’ 20 and 52 seconds remained in the game.

Hazlehurst head coach Willie Brown said his team’s inability tocash in a touchdown inside Brookhaven’s 10-yard line was decisive.”If we had scored that touchdown, I don’t believe Brookhaven wouldhave scored on our defense.

“We knew we could play with (Panthers) defensively,” Brownadded. “I was concerned the most about our offensive line.”