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‘Cats edge Indians for 3A title

DAILY LEADER / BILLY FREEMAN / Hazlehurst quarterback Jarvis Warner (9) looks for some running room as Louisville's defender Jonathan Lynch (43) hustles from behind in Saturday Class 3A state championship at Jackson's Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.

DAILY LEADER / BILLY FREEMAN / Hazlehurst quarterback Jarvis Warner (9) looks for some running room as Louisville’s defender Jonathan Lynch (43) hustles from behind in Saturday Class 3A state championship at Jackson’s Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.

JACKSON – Louisville’s Rodneal Smith made perhaps the biggest play of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Gridiron Classic State Championships, Saturday morning at Jackson’s Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Smith, a 6-foot, 240 lb. senior defensive tackle, knocked down a potential game-tying two-point conversion try by Hazlehurst; thus preserving a hard-fought 30-28 Wildcat win over the Indians for the MHSAA Class 3A state championship.

With the victory by Louisville, the Wildcats (16-0) captured their 8th state championship. Louisville also claimed state titles in Class 4A in 1985, 1986, 1991, 1993, 1995 and Class 3A in 2007 and 2008.

Hazlehurst (14-2) was denied their second consecutive title and third overall, having won last season’s championship and claiming another back in 2005.

“We made too many mistakes early on,” said Indian head coach Randal Montgomery who has taken his team to the state championship game in his first three years as head coach.

“We played a lot better in the second half. I am proud of our kids for their effort, for they never gave up.”

Turnovers afforded Hazlehurst their only lead of the game on their opening possession.

Following a fumble by Louisville and subsequent recovery by Kadarrion Sandifer, the Indians used two plays to take an early 7-0 lead. Senior quarterback Jarvis Warner found junior Dycelious Reese with 15-yard touchdown strike. Reese’s PAT kick was good.

After several possession exchanges, Louisville mustered a seven-all deadlock. Runningback Jeremy Sangster scored from three-yards out. Corey McCullough tacked on the first of four successful PAT kicks.

Both teams scored off of turnovers to register a 14-all deadlock heading into the second. Louisville scored on a Wyatt Roberts to Desmond Goss pass from 25 yards out, while Hazlehurst countered with a Warner strike to Dycelious Reese.

Louisville, coached by M.C. Miller, reclaimed the lead for good at 16-14 with 4:23 left in the first. Facing third and 18 from its own two-yard line, Warner completed a tipped-pass to Dycelious Reese in the endzone. Reese tried to cross the goal line, but pushed out of bound by Louisville’s Anthony Gund for a safety.

“We were able to make some big plays,” said Coach Miller who had previous coaching stops at Louisville and Noxubee County. “Hazlehurst gave us one whale-of-a-game. They have a really good football team.”

Following the Indians free kick from their own 20, Roberts found wideout Dontae Jones for Louisville with a 31-yard scoring strike to extend their first-half advantage to 23-14.

Montgomery’s crew would not go away. The Indians thwarted a 14-play, 54-yard drive, when Dycelious Reese returned a Wildcat punt 87 yards for a touchdown. Warner passed to John Bridges for the successful two-point try, and Hazlehurst trailed 23-22 with 4:36 left in the third.

Miller’s squad carried a 30-22 lead into the fourth, following a score by Roberts with 31 seconds left in the third.

Hazlehurst cut that deficit to two points with 41 seconds left in the game. Dedric Reese caught a 14-yard scoring pass from Warner. Warner looked for Dedric Reese on the two-point try, but Smith knocked down Warner’s pass and the Wildcats were able to run out the clock.

“Good game by both teams,” said both Coach Miller and Montgomery following the game. “Turnovers were the key to the game.”

Dycelious Reese paced the Indians with 59 yards receiving, 30 yards rushing, an 87-yard punt return and two extra point kicks.

Warner completed 12-of-29 passes for 175 yards and three scores.

On defense, Reese and Bridges registered 11 tackles each. Jarvarius Tanner and Damariun Wilson followed with 10 stops each.

Avonte Harris led Louisville with 104 yards on 22 carries. Roberts completed 12-of-23 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Jeremy Sangster had 11 tackles to direct the Louisville defense.

DAILY LEADER / BILLY FREEMAN / Hazlehurst defenders Jarvarius Tanner (59) and Darrius Washington (15) team up to bring down Louisville running back Jeremy Sangster (28) in Saturday football action.

DAILY LEADER / BILLY FREEMAN / Hazlehurst defenders Jarvarius Tanner (59) and Darrius Washington (15) team up to bring down Louisville running back Jeremy Sangster (28) in Saturday football action.