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Hazlehurst Indians land in title game

HAZLEHURST – Going to the Big House!

    The Hazlehurst Indians are returning to Mississippi VeteransMemorial Stadium and the Class 3A State Championship game after a6-year absence. They qualified for the state title game by comingfrom behind to defeat Seminary’s Bulldogs 46-28 Friday night injam-packed Robert McDaniel Sr. Stadium. Erasing an early, 14-0deficit, the Indians gained a 28-28 halftime deadlock and thenplayed fierce, shutout defense to win their 13th game of the seasonand claim the South State Championship trophy.

    Hazlehurst (13-1) will play the Charleston Tigers (13-2) Saturdayat 11 a.m. in the title test. Charleston beat Cleveland East Side44-34 for the North State trophy.

    Junior running back Demetrius Cain provided plenty of Hazlehurstheroics again. He rushed 17 times for 250 yards and 4 touchdowns.He scored on runs of 80, 7, 10 and 76 yards behind a patched upoffensive line. His performance pushed him above the 1,000-yardrushing plateau.

    “Our team never quits,” explained Cain, when asked about the earlydeficit. His 10-yard, third-quarter TD run put the Indians up forgood at 34-28 with 6:47 showing. It also ignited more fireworksthat were launched from behind the west end zone.

    Defensive lineman Darius Washington said the Indians adjusted toSeminary’s tricky Wing-T offensive scheme. “We made someadjustments and then we dominated the second half. We kept ourheads in the game.”

    The Bulldogs, coached by Brian Rials, only managed 4 first downsand 31 yards total offense the second half.

    Seminary (12-3), sparked by the explosive runs of Josh Keys, hadtaken a 14-0 lead with than 4 minutes into the game. Keys caught a58-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Austin Balthazor over themiddle before the game was 2 minutes old. He raced 61 yards for thesecond TD and Dylan Thames tacked on his second PAT.

    Keys finished with 15 carries for 93 yards. He scored on a 21-yardTD run in the second quarter and followed with a 52-yardinterception return of a Kenny Coleman pass for a 28-20 lead with1:25 left before halftime.

    The Indians had pulled within 21-20 on a 10-yard sprint by speedyFreddie Nelson. A 5-yard plunge over left guard by Aaron Larry anda 2-point conversion run by Cain tied the game at 28-all with 10seconds left until halftime.

    Cain got a key block from a wide receiver as he rumbled 76 yards topaydirt in the fourth quarter. Coleman plunged 7 yards for thegame’s final TD with 4:13 left in the game.

    Hazlehurst first-year coach Randall Montgomery watched withsatisfaction as his team hoisted the South State championshiptrophy in the cool night air and huddled together for team photos.Only three seniors are on the varsity roster.

    “Defensively, we were a little too riled up in the first quarter,”said Montgomery. “Once we settled down, we played a goodballgame.”

    On defense, Cain led the Indians with 12 tackles. Demond Tuckermade 8 tackles, 2 for a loss. Washington and Javarius Tanner eachhad 7 stops.

    Hazlehurst last won a state title in 2005. The Indians craveanother gold football for their trophy case.