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LCHS Cougars squeeze past Prentiss

MONTICELLO – T-Tez Cole rushed for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Lawrence County Cougars edged the Prentiss Bulldogs 21-20 in high school football Friday night at LCHS.

After a lightening and rain delay pushed the start of the game back almost an hour and a half, Cole provided most of the fireworks-and almost all of the offense-for the homestanding Cougars. He scored two first-quarter touchdowns on lengthy runs, then foiled Prentiss’s upset bid with a fourth-quarter nine-yard run.

“It wasn’t a very pretty game,” said first-year Lawrence County coach Jaymie Palmer, “but I thought it was a gutsy win for our team. We had a lot of factors going against us tonight – much of it self-inflicted – but the guys we had on the field battled through it. This is a game that could have easily gotten away from us.”

Palmer’s Cougars were without three starters, who were ordered by the MHSAA to sit out the game as the result of an on-field altercation with Crystal Springs one week earlier. Also, sophomore quarterback Charl’Tez Nunnery was banged up and didn’t start. He entered the game only when his replacement, senior Jerod Barnes, was knocked from the game by a vicious hit on a quarterback sack.

With the win, Palmer’s Cougars improved to 3-1 on the young season. Prentiss, coached by Tim McNair, fell to 2-2 on the campaign.

Cole’s big night foiled a heroic effort by Prentiss quarterback Donte Ford. Ford rushed 20 times for 90 yards and completed seven of 14 passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns. While formidable numbers, those numbers do not do justice to Ford’s effort. Time and time again, Ford avoided seemingly certain sacks, turning potential disasters into positive gains.

Behind the running and passing of Ford, Prentiss controlled the football for almost two-thirds of the game. He staked the Bulldogs to an early 6-0 lead with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Damien Perkins.

Lawrence County responded immediately, with a 75-yard touchdown run by Cole, who broke multiple tackles along the way. Joshua Stephens nailed the extra point, to give the Cougars a 7-6 lead. Stephens’ extra points proved to be the difference in the game. He went 3-for-3 on the night.

Late in the first half, after a Randy Haynes fumble recovery, Cole broke another tackle near the line of scrimmage and raced 27 yards for a touchdown. The Cougars led 14-6 late in the first quarter.

Prentiss dominated the second quarter, as Lawrence County ran only four offensive plays in the period. The Bulldogs capped a 12-play drive with a Ford-to-Anthony Walker 20-yard touchdown pass. For the second straight time, the LCHS defense stopped Prentiss’ 2-point conversion attempt.

Late in the half, Prentiss was on the march again, but with time running out on the halftime clock, Cole intercepted a Ford pass near the goal line to preserve Lawrence County’s 14-12 lead.

The Prentiss defense had its way with the Cougars for most of the third quarter. Two LCHS possessions ended in three-and-out punts, and the third ended in disaster. With 2:31 left in the period, the combination of a low snap and a ferocious Prentiss rush resulted in an Alfred Sullivan fumble recovery in the end zone, for a Bulldog touchdown. A 2-point run gave the Bulldogs a 20-14 lead.

Facing serious adversity, Cole led Lawrence County back. First, he returned the ensuing Prentiss kickoff 30 yards to the Bulldog 43. He then carried on five of the next seven plays, the final one a bruising 9-yard touchdown effort, on a fourth-and-one play. Stephens, from the hold of Duke Tanksley and the snap of Lane Rutland, nailed the go-ahead extra point.

“That was a big drive,” Palmer said, “the difference between winning and losing. I was proud of the way our guys responded to that adversity.”

Prentiss’s final threat got as deep as the LCHS 21-yard line. From there, Ford was sacked on consecutive plays, the first by Jaylin Madison and Brandon Armstrong and the second by Willie Earl Bryant, on fourth down. The Lawrence County offense, behind the running of Cole and Jarius Snell, was able to eat up most of the clock after that.

Lawrence County will embark on a four-week road trip this Friday, beginning at Collins High School.