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Hazlehurst Indians scalp West Marion Trojans

DAILY LEADER / JONATHON ALFORD / The Hazlehurst Indians show off their defensive brute strength in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs against the West Marion Trojans Friday night at Robert McDaniel Sr. Stadium.

DAILY LEADER / JONATHON ALFORD / The Hazlehurst Indians show off their defensive brute strength in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs against the West Marion Trojans Friday night at Robert McDaniel Sr. Stadium.

HAZLEHURST – The defending state champion Hazlehurst Indians began their march for a repeat on a successful note after scalping the West Marion Trojans 41-6 Friday night in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs at Robert McDaniel Sr. Stadium.

“Good to get the win,” said Hazlehurst coach Randal Montgomery. “The guys started off a little sluggish to start the game, but managed to finish strong in the way we wanted. Offensively, we ran the ball really well and our defense was solid.”

The Indians and Trojans entered the contest as familiar opponents after battling each other for the Class 3A South State championship last year in Hazlehurst.

In the opening quarter, the two schools renewed their rivalry as the Trojans came out and struck first on their opening drive. Sophomore quarterback Josh Miller scrambled in a four-yard touchdown run with 11:01 remaining, and West Marion went for the two-point conversion but failed to punch it in.

After that quick strike by the Trojans (5-7, 2-3), Hazlehurst’s offense and defense came alive and exploded on West Marion with 41 unanswered points.

Senior running back Malik Brown started the scoring onslaught for the Indians late in the first quarter with a four-yard touchdown run with 3:07 left. Dycelious Reese finished one-of-three on the extra point kicks.

In the second quarter, the Indians continued their surge to gain a 27-6 lead at halftime. Senior quarterback Jarvis Warner helped fuel the flames by hooking up with senior receiver Dedric Reese for 20-yard touchdown pass with 10:07 left.

Junior running back Dycelious Reese increased the Indians’ lead with a 26-yard sprint to pay dirt with 7:24 remaining.

Senior running back D’Alex Rockingham scored Hazlehurst’s last touchdown in the first half on a seven-yard scramble with a 0:42 left. The Indians cashed in a two-point conversion attempt as Warner threw a pass to Reese.

In the second half, the Indians continued their dominance over West Marion as Hazlehurst’s defense pitched a shutout in the final two quarters of the contest.

On offense, the Indians scored two more touchdowns before turning off the floodgates. Warner threw two touchdown passes to Dedric Reese and Ladarrious Williams for a three-yard and four-yard reception. Hazlehurst also punched in their final attempt for a two-point conversion as Warner connected with John Bridge on a pass pattern.

“Hazlehurst is a really good football team,” said West Marion coach Brad Duncan. “They are very well coached and they are used to winning. We were very fortunate to make the playoffs with a young team after losing a lot of players to graduation last year.

“Overall, I was very pleased with my guys’ efforts,” continued Duncan. “We had a very good season, and this was a great learning experience to build on for next season. I also would like to wish Coach Montgomery and his team good luck in the playoffs.”

Offensively, Warner directed the charge for the Indians, completing 10-of-19 passes for 90 yards.

Dycelious Reese was the leader on Hazlehurst’s ground attack with six carries for 83 yards. Rockingham contributed 78 yards, rushing on nine carries.

Dedric Reese was the top receiver for the Indians with five catches for 47 yards.

Josh Miller was the offensive leader for the Trojans with 113 yards rushing on 16 carries. He also completed seven-of-15 passes for 43 yards and one interception.

Defensively, the Indians held the Trojans to just 170 yards total. Michael Miller was the top hitter for Hazlehurst with 10 tackles. Cyrus Goodwin helped with eight stops and an interception. Bridge contributed six tackles and recovered a fumble.

Garry Martin paced West Marion’s defense with 10 tackles. Josh Miller provided nine stops and recovered a fumble. Larry Alexander had six tackles.

Hazlehurst (11-1, 5-0) advances to the second round of the Class 3A playoffs and hosts the Forest Bearcats (9-3, 4-1) Friday night. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.