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Unbeatens S. Pike, Hazlehurst collide

HAZLEHURST — It’s a marquee showdown, featuring two unbeatenfootball teams. Friday night’s Class 3A South State championshipgame between Hazlehurst and South Pike at Hazlehurst, is expectedto draw a record crowd to Robert McDaniel Field. Kickoff is 7p.m.

South Pike (13-0) and Hazlehurst (11-0) were ranked 1-2 in theAssociated Press Class 3A Prep Poll. They have been on a collisioncourse since the playoffs began.

Friday night’s winner advances to next Saturday’s 3A statechampionship game in Jackson’s Mississippi Veterans MemorialStadium. They’ll play the winner of the North State title game,either Senatobia (11-2) or Charleston (12-1), at 11 a.m.

South Pike head coach Randall Huffman and his staff have beenwatching the Indians on film. “Hazlehurst has wingbacks who get tothe corner real quick. Their line does a good job up frontblocking. We have to contain them.”

Huffman said he was impressed by the Indians’ defense.”Hazlehurst is giving up five points a game or less than that. Wehave to figure out a way to score. The whole group flies to thefootball. The ends are tough. The linebackers are tough. Thesecondary is tough.”

South Pike’s offense includes Kelsey Island at quarterback,Chris Abron at running back, Travorrious Marsalis, Derrick Ross,Quinten Brown and Brinson Johnson at wide receiver, Michael Jacksonat center, Randy Carter at right guard, Jasper Pittman at righttackle, Ladarius Stallings at left guard, Johnathan Hodges at lefttackle.

D.J. Putman punts and Randy Carter kicks from placement.

Island has attempted 190 passes and completed 94 for 1,401 yardsand 26 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Island has rushed 84 timesfor 392 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Ross has caught 35 passes for 708 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Abron has rushed 147 times for 1,070 yards and 9 touchdowns.

The Eagles have not made a field goal this season.

On defense, Dwayne Pittman leads the Eagles with 124 tackles,including 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery and 1 interception. LinebackerTimmy Brown has 81 tackles, 4 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries. EndJames Martin has 53 tackles, 13 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries and hasblocked 3 punts.

LaPatrick Webber has a team-high 5 interceptions for SouthPike.

South Pike’s defense includes ends Marcus Gordon and JamesMartin, tackles Derrick Dillon and Cedric Jackson and nose guardFernandez Stevenson.

Linebackers are Dwayne Pittman, Timmy Brown. Cornerbacks areLionel Richard, D.J. Putman. Safeties are Chris Carr and PatWebber.

Huffman said the number of starters returning on defense madehim optimistic regarding the 2005 campaign. “We thought going in wewould have a pretty good football team. We had a bunch back ondefense.”

The Eagles dropped from Class 4A to 3A this year, making them anearly favorite in the state playoffs. They’ve defeated 5A powerWarren Central 31-0 and beaten a pair of Class 4A foes in McComband Noxubee County.

Huffman praised his group of assistant coaches. “My coachingstaff has done more and gone beyond the call of duty. We are all onthe same page most of the time and we get things done.”

Huffman, a 1969 Hazlehurst graduate, was head coach atHazlehurst from 1983-91. He said he has fond memories.

“I live there and I grew up there,” said Huffman. “I’m happy tobe where I am at. Most of the kids at Hazlehurst, I coached theirparents.”

Indians Await South Pike

Hazlehurst head coach Willie Brown said South Pike is anotherhurdle en route to winning the state championship. “We are ready tocontinue our journey.”

Looking at the Eagles on film, Brown said, “They are a team withreal good talent. They have speed on offense and defense.

“You can start with their quarterback. and receivers,” Brownnoted. “Number 27 (Abron) is a fast running back.

“On defense, you have to start with Pittman,” Brown continued.”Their defensive line comes off the ball real strong.”

Asked for a victory recipe, Brown said, “We must control theirdefensive line and stop penetration. We have to contain theirquarterback.”

Brown said his team is ready for the showdown. “We are fortunateto be healthy. We have some bumps and bruises, but nothingserious.”

Starting Lineup

On offense, the Indians start junior Damien Anderson atquarterback, Bobby Moore at wingback and Courtney Hall at wingback,and Keyshun Reese at fullback in the backfield.

At tight end is Jazzmen Guy. Johnny Sanders is at wide receiver.In the offensive line are Marco Thompson at left tackle, CameronMurray at left guard, Robert Vinson at center, Michael Porter atright guard, and Chris Harris at right tackle.

Delvin Johnson, one of 11 seniors on the team, is theplacekicker.

On defense, the line include Kevin Holmes and Guy at end,Thompson and Johnson at tackle. The linebackers are Quentin Barnesand Dundrae Pendleton at outside linebacker and Johnny Sanders inthe middle.

Cornerbacks are Hall and Demetrius Gilmore. The safety isDearius Wilbert. Holmes is the team’s punter.