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Panthers level Forest Hill

JACKSON – Offense, defense and special teams produced touchdownsfor the Brookhaven Panthers on a chilly Friday night in a must-winshowdown against the Forest Hill Patriots. BHS senior quarterbackDuwone Harris scored two touchdowns on runs of 17 and 25 yards,sparking the Panthers in a 42-18 victory and a berth in the Class5A state playoffs.

Brookhaven (6-4, 4-3), seeded No. 4, will travel to Region 4-5Achampion Long Beach (10-1, 7-0) Friday night in the opening roundof the state playoffs. Forest Hill (5-6, 2-5) needed a victory overBHS on Senior Night to reach the playoffs but the Patriots werederailed by turnovers and Brook’s hard-hitting defense.

The cold temperatures in the low 40s didn’t seem to bother Harriswho was grinning from ear to ear. “This is football weather. My bigoffensive line deserves credit. We were able to run some zoneoption.”

Offensive right tackle Sam Ballard, one of 26 seniors on the BHSsquad, was among the players celebrating their success. He wasconfident the Panthers would do well in the playoffs.

“We have a real good shot at making a run in the playoffs,” saidBallard. “As a team we got closer as the season went along.”

The Panthers and Patriots battled through a scoreless first quarterand nearly eight minutes deep into the second quarter, swapping twofumbles apiece, before BHS broke the ice. Forest Hill’s TrevontaeWillis attempted a 34-yard field goal but it was blocked by JaboreePoole and picked up by Jonah Hill who returned it 69 yards for atouchdown.

Dewey Stailey connected on his first of six extra points and thePanthers led 7-0 with 4:12 left in the first half.

Halting the Patriots on fourth down at the BHS 40, the Panthers had59 seconds left to reach the end zone before halftime. Harrisripped off runs of 35 and 25 yards to reach paydirt. His TD dashwas a spinning, tackle-breaking effort that crossed the goal linewith 33 seconds left to play.

“We scored on offense, defense and special teams,” said Ole Brookcoach Tucker Peavey. “We played better as a team against a talentedForest Hill team.”

To start the second half, Devonte Stewart fielded the FH kickoff athis 10-yard line and raced 90 yards for a touchdown. However, aholding penalty wiped out the TD and BHS took over at the Patriots’35. Harris carried twice and went 17 yards on the second snap for a21-0 lead.

FH senior quarterback Isaiah James showcased his rifle arm on thenext series and guided his team to a touchdown. Wide receiver DevonDavis made a leaping catch in the end zone and it was 21-6 with9:17 left in the third quarter.

The Panthers capitalized on a short Patriot punt and went 36 yardsto paydirt in 6 plays, with senior running back Travorius Showerscovering the final 2 yards over right tackle. It was 28-6 with 59seconds left in the third quarter.

After the Patriots got a 10-yard TD pass from James to tight endChristopher Adams to make it 28-12. Then the Panthers capitalizedon two turnovers.

Chris Seals stepped in front of a James pass and returned it 36yards to paydirt. On the next series, Greg Sims returned aninterception 55 yards for a score and a 42-12 advantage with 5minutes left to play.

“I just scooped it up and scored,” said Sims.

Peavey elected to rest his starters on the next series. James,passing for 260 yards, completed 21 of 34 passes. A 12-yard TD tosswent to Jamarius Mabry with 30 seconds left to play.