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Ole Brook outscores Braves, gains playoffs

The South Jones Braves and the Brookhaven Panthers took turns scoring touchdowns in the first half and continued the offensive fireworks through the entire game. A 3-touchdown, fourth-quarter outburst provided the Panthers with a strong finish and they notched a 62-43 Friday night triumph on King Field in Region 3-5A.

     The Panthers (5-5, 4-3), faced with a must-win situation to have an outside chance at a playoff berth, bounced back from a heart-breaking 17-15 loss to region champion Wayne County. Their prayers were answered Friday night when archrival McComb knocked off Pearl 36-29 in double-overtime to secure the Panthers a berth in the state playoffs as the No. 4 seed.

     They’ll visit No. 1-ranked Picayune Nov. 9.

     Panther senior running back Justin Blue surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark with 65 yards rushing and two touchdowns. His 4-yard scoring plunge came with 3:39 left to play, making it 62-35.

     “It feels great to win on Senior Night,” said Blue. “Our offensive line blocked well and our defense came through for us. Our backs had a great night.”

     A ruckus celebration erupted in the BHS locker room after head coach Tommy Clopton shared the news about McComb’s victory. Music blared and the players danced with joy.

     The two teams combined for over 800 yards total offense.

     South Jones (4-7, 1-6) refused to quit Friday night.  The Braves took their last lead at 14-7 in the first quarter but managed to deadlock the game 21-21 before trailing 28-21 at halftime.

     “It was a good offensive game,” said South Jones coach Chet Bergalowski. “Not much defense. I was proud of our kids for hanging in there.”

     SJ senior quarterback Carter Polles passed for two touchdowns and kept drives alive with darting scrambles through Brookhaven’s defense. His 17-yard TD pass to Jonathan McGilberry came with 17 seconds left to play. A mad scramble by Polles on the conversion  try  accounted for the Braves’ final points.

     Bergalowski praised his quarterback. “Polles has been a pleasure to coach. He wants to do it all sometimes and I have to put a rein on him. I hate to lose him. Wish I had him back next year.”

     SJ senior running back Greg Clark rushed for 154 yards and 2 TDs in the loss. Senior teammate Greg Cooley rushed for 93 yards and 1 TD.

     The Panthers carried a 42-35 lead into the fourth quarter. Senior quarterback Zach Smith hooked up with wide receiver Genoa Sartin for 15 yards and a TD with 10:47 left in the game and a 49-35 lead.

     Smith deftly completed 13 of 17 passes for 229 yards and 2 TDs.

      Sophomore defensive end Leo Lewis provided the Panthers with a momentum changer.  Polles was tackled  in the backfield and thrown for a loss, causing a fumble. Lewis scooped up the ball and rumbled 75 yards  to the end zone, giving BHS a 56-35 advantage.

     Clopton said he was pleased with his team’s triumph. “I was proud for our seniors to bounce back and win at home. They have had a lot of positive influence in our program.”

     Sophomore running back Tre McDaniel had a big night for the Panthers. He rushed for 99 yards and 2 touchdowns. Senior running back Demarius Newton also scored twice.

     Twenty-six seniors and their families were recognized in a pregame ceremony. Clopton presented a red rose to each player.

      Also recognized was Sawyer Dyess, a sophomore linebacker who died in an auto accident prior to the 2010 season. His family was presented with a glass-framed box  containing his No. 53 game jersey.

     After the playing of the National Anthem prior to the game, a large number of BHS fans remained standing and recited the Lord’s Prayer.