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2nd half lifts Panthers over PRC

Pearl River Central football fans who made the long drive fromCarriere Friday, were thrilled as they watched their Blue Devilscharge to a surprising 20-14 halftime lead over the BrookhavenPanthers. BHS head coach Tucker Peavey challenged his team athalftime and they responded with an impressive second half, beatingthe Devils 35-20 on King Field in the first round of the Class 4Astate playoffs.

Brookhaven (9-2) ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press PrepPoll, will host No. 4 Wayne County (10-1) in the second round.Another 7 p.m. kickoff awaits Friday night.

“I got on them pretty good at halftime,” Peavey admitted. “Theyplayed the second half the way I wanted them to play the wholegame.”

The Blue Devils (7-4) couldn’t catch Panther scatback RonnieMcNulty who raced for 2 fourth-quarter touchdowns. He finished with20 carries for 202 yards and 3 TDs, including a 46-yard, secondquarter dash.

“Ronnie played an outstanding game,” said Peavey. “We had toplay him some on defense, too. He showed incredible stamina.”

Brookhaven asserted itself in the third quarter after survivingan onside kickoff the Devils recovered at the BHS 49-yard line. PRCreached the Panthers’ 21-yard line before safety Jarvis Wilsonintercepted Devil quarterback Adam Robin at the 5-yard line,returning the theft to the 26.

Wilson, who had 2 interceptions in the second half, said somedefensive adjustments were made at halftime. “We had a bad firsthalf with our coverage. Pearl River had a good passing game.”

After Wilson’s theft, the Panthers plowed 74 yards in 9 rushingplays. Dominique Smith plunged the final 8 yards up the middle totie the score at 20-20. Will Thibodeaux’ PAT kick gave Brookhaven a21-20 lead with 5:40 left in the third quarter.

Smith finished with 161 rushing yards on 21 carries. Most of hisyardage were hard-earned, up the middle plunges

The Panthers shut down 2 PRC tries on offense before launchingan 87-yard scoring march late in the third quarter. Eleven playslater, McNulty circled right end from 10 yards out, hurdled awould-be tackler and crossed the goal line.

Thibodeaux’s PAT gave Brook a 28-20 advantage with 8:43 left inthe game.

Wilson’s second interception came at Brookhaven’s 22-yard linewith 7:04 remaining. The Panthers capitalized on the turnover,going 78 yards in 7 plays. McNulty plunged the final 4 yards andthe Panthers led 35-20 with 4:27 left.

“We had a job to do and we finished it in the second half,” saidBHS quarterback Jimmy Johns who completed 6 of 9 passes for 72yards and was intercepted once. “Our running backs ran well and ourO-line was big for us.”

Led by Robin, a 175-pound junior quarterback; and hard-runningSeth Guidroz, the Devils were first on the scoreboard. Justin Lewisblocked a 31-yard field goal attempt by Thibodeaux.

Robin hooked up with Marvis Burkett for a 27-yard completion toBrookhaven’s 13. Guidroz, a 175-pound junior, followed with atackle-breaking run for the TD.

Brookhaven’s Anthony Caffie blocked the PAT kick by JonathanGrahan and the Devils led 6-0.

The Panthers responded with a 7-play, 63-yard touchdown drive.Smith covered the final 3 yards up the middle and Thibodeaux’s PATput the hosts up 7-6 with 10:23 left in the first half.

An interception by PRC’s Jordan Truman gave the Devils a scoringopportunity at Brookhaven’s 1-yard line. Five plays later Robin hitP.J. Nixon on a quick slant for the TD. Robin used a play actionfake to flip a 2-point conversion pass to Justin Lewis for a 14-7advantage.

A 46-yard TD run by McNulty capped a quick, 5-play scoringdrive. Thibodeaux’ PAT tied the game 14-14 with 3:32 left in thefirst half.

The Devils went 70 yards in 8 plays at Robin hit a pair of30-yard strikes, the TD shot going to wide receiver Kenny Robinsonwho slipped behind the Panther secondary.

BHS defensive end Philip Tobias said the Panthers weredisappointed with their first-half performance. “We wereembarrassed the first half. We stepped it up the second half.”

Tobias had 4 tackles for losses, including 2 quarterbacksacks.

PRC head coach Michael Bradley said Brookhaven’s superior sizeand depth were decisive. “They wore us down in the second half.They did a good job adjusting at halftime.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our kids,” said Bradley. “It was usagainst the world. Our kids wanted to play well.”