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Tri-County claims season-opening victory

Tri-County quarterback and Brookhaven native Jimmy Johns provided many a highlight reel on King Field on Friday nights.

     Saturday night as a member of the Gridiron Developmental Football League, Johns provided a highlight for the estimated 1,100 football-frenzy fans in attendance.

     Johns tossed the game-tying touchdown to wideout Justin Durr with 13 seconds left on the clock. Place-kicker Ryan Weaver, out of the holder Dewey Stailey, sent the game-winner down the middle of the uprights to the tune of a thrilling 21-20 win over the Mississippi Iron Horse, based in Pike County.

     The Heroes (1-0) hit the road for the first time this season Saturday night to take on the Mississippi Raiders on Hazlehurst High’s Robert McDaniel Stadium. Kickoff set for 7 p.m.

     Johns, on the Heroes’ first play from scrimmage, hit receiver Damoyn Carroll with an electrifying 44-yard fly pattern completion. Johns, along with several players from both teams, would later suffer leg cramps throughout the game.

     Johns called on reserve quarterback Justin Durr to fill in, and he answered the call at the 6:26 mark of the opening period from 7 yards out. Ryan Weaver tacked the first of 3 PAT kicks for a 7-0 lead.

     “I asked Justin to step in, while I was trying to get myself together,” said Johns. “Justin is young, but he led us with his feet tonight.”

     The Iron Horse (0-1) responded with a pair of touchdowns over the 6 minutes. Darrell Brown scored from 3 yards out and quarterback Daniel McGaffney found James Morris with 16-yard scoring strike. The Iron Horse carried a 12-7 advantage that held until the 3:18 mark of the third.

     That when Durr scored his second touchdown of the night from 1 yard out for a 14-12 Tri-County cushion.

     The Iron Horse responded two possessions later, when McGaffney found Patrick Washington with a 54-yard scoring pass. The McGaffney-Washington connection was successful on the 2-point conversion, reclaiming the lead at 20-14.    

     The Iron Horse had several opportunities to put the game away, but the Heroes became a burden that they were unable to bear.

     With 44 seconds left on the game clock, Tri-County regained possession following a 7-yard Iron Horse punt. On fourth and goal at the Mississippi 1, Johns rolled to right and found Durr with the game-tying score.

     “Who better to have the ball in their hands, with a chance to win than Jimmy,” said Tri-County head Coach Phil Campbell following the game. “He played nearly the entire game and he just put this team on his back and refused to lose.”