Eagles escape Wesson

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, November 6, 2011

WESSON – When it was crunch time in thelast minute of play, North Forrest quarterback Jalen Haskinprovided the Friday night heroics in Stone Stadium. Haskin dodgedseveral would-be tacklers and fired a touchdown strike to TeraldMcNeil that was good for 73 yards and the winning TD. It lifted theEagles to a thrilling 27-21 win over the Wesson Cobras in theopening round of the Class 2A state playoffs.

    Haskin, a shifty 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior, also ran 18 yards fora score as the Eagles (7-4) advanced to the second round where theywill host No. 1-ranked Taylorsville Friday night in Hattiesburg.Wesson (5-6), the No. 2 seed out of Region 6-2A with a 4-1 regionmark, was unable to contain Haskin and absorbed another closesetback.

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    “Jalen is a special player,” said North Forrest coach MattCaldwell. “He has made plays for us all year long.”

    Haskin completed 9 of 11 passes for 186 yards. He rushed 16 timesfor 69 yards. His scrambling kept drives alive.

    Wesson coach Tommy Clopton was disappointed with the loss, histeam’s fourth by a touchdown or less. “Almost. That seems to be thestory of our season. We got a big turnover and we didn’t punch itin.

    “We picked up our intensity in the second half,” Clopton added. “Wejust came up short. My hat is off to our senior class. They workedhard every day and gave us leadership.”

    Clopton loses 14 seniors to graduation. Six of them arestarters.

    Trailing 14-0 in the second quarter, Clopton’s Cobras were on theverge of getting blown out. However, they got an 16-yard TD scamperby sophomore Antonio Miller, capping a 12-play, 80-yard drive.

    Austin Graham kicked his first of three extra  points and the Cobras trailed 14-7with 5:20 left in the first half.

    The Eagles marched to Wesson’s 2-yard line on the next series andappeared ready to pad their lead. But a fumble by Lawrence Hopkinswas scooped up  by Wessonlinebacker Derrick Lyles and returned 86 yards to the Eagles’ 10yard line.

    Wesson reached the 1-yard line on a option run by quarterback JacobFischer. A 5-yard, false start penalty moved them back  and a fourth down pass to Lyles fellincomplete.

    “We got a big turnover but we couldn’t punch it in,” said Clopton.”That (TD) would have given us some momentum.”

    Momentum belonged to the Eagles as they marched 63 yards in 9 playswith the second-half kickoff. Sophomore fullback Hunter Leuiplunged the final yard. Leui’s PAT put the Eagles up 21-7 with 7:30left in the third quarter.

    Wesson responded with a 9-play, 66-yard scoring drive. Fischer hitLyles who was working at tight end with 19-yard TD pass. Graham’sPAT made it 21-14.

    Near the midway point of the fourth quarter, Haskin tried faking afourth down punt but Lyles tackles him for a 7-yard loss at the NF35. Six plays later, Fischer found Lyles who was wide open and hithim with a 21-yard strike. It was 21-all with 2:07 left in thegame.

    While the fans anticipated overtime, Haskin had other plans.Starting at their 39-yard line, the Eagles moved to Wesson’s 46.Zach Wilson tackled Haskin for a 7-yard loss and the next playresulted in a 20-yard holding penalty against the Eagles, pushingthem back to their 27.

    Haskin scrambled left, reversed his field, dodged another tacklerand found McNeil wide open behind the Wesson secondary. The Eaglesled 27-21 with 27 seconds left on the scoreboard clock.

    Clopton praised Haskin. “Number 2 (Haskin) is a difference maker.Anytime you run the option, you have to stop him. He made a coupleof plays on us.”

    Terald McNeil scored the game’s first touchdown on a 38-yard sprintaround the right side of his line. Haskin ran 18 yards for thesecond TD on a rollout.

    Caldwell praised the Cobras. “Wesson is a scrappy team. I told ourguys they will hit you in bunches.”

    The Eagles finished with 385 yards total offense compared toWesson’s 216. Steve Jones was Wesson’s leading rusher with 13carries for 65 yards. Miller picked up 62 yards on 8 rushes.