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Panthers edge Bulldogs in region battle

DAILY LEADER / JONATHON ALFORD / Brookhaven's Lazorian McNulty stretches to knock down the pass against Natchez at King Field.

DAILY LEADER / JONATHON ALFORD / Brookhaven’s Lazorian McNulty stretches to knock down the pass against Natchez at King Field.

The Ole Brook Panthers and the Natchez Bulldogs provided an exciting contest for their football fans Friday night as the Panthers defense made four big stops against the Bulldogs’ offense in the closing minute of action to preserve a 34-32 Region 3-5A victory on King Field.

“This was a great team win,” said BHS coach Tommy Clopton. “Offensively, we managed to move the ball, but our defense did a great job making the plays when we needed it, especially at the end. Overall, I am very pleased with my guys’ effort. Tyler Mixon also had a great night for us making two field goal and four extra point attempts.”

In the first quarter of action, Brookhaven’s and Natchez’s offense and defense came out firing on all-cylinders as both teams knew coming in that this game was huge to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Natchez running back John Ferguson got the Bulldogs on the board first as he scrambled in a 7-yard touchdown with 6:23 remaining. The Bulldogs went for the two-point conversion but failed to cash it in. Natchez was unsuccessful on their first four attempts for the two-point conversion.

Brookhaven quickly answered Natchez’s challenge on their next possession as the Panthers marched down the field. Junior quarterback Jon Mark Mathis put Ole Brook on the scoreboard on a 1-yard run with 5:08 left. Tyler Mixon finished perfect on the extra point kick going four-for-four on the night.

DAILY LEADER / JONATHON ALFORD / Brookhaven's quarterback Jon-Mark Mathis (11) out runs Natchez's Draylon McDonald (22) to score a touchdown Friday night.

DAILY LEADER / JONATHON ALFORD / Brookhaven’s quarterback Jon-Mark Mathis (11) out runs Natchez’s Draylon McDonald (22) to score a touchdown Friday night.

On the Bulldogs’ next possession, the Panthers defense came out pumped up and force Natchez to punt the ball. Ole Brook’s offense continued to fueled the flames as they cashed in a 55-yard run by Mathis to captured the lead at 14-6.

Natchez rallied back late in the first quarter to try to stop Brookhaven’s momentum as Chris Scott connected with John Ferguson for a 22-yard strike with 1:21 left. After one quarter of action BHS led 14-12.

In the second quarter, the offensive and defensive war continued as both teams moved the ball up and down the field, but neither could advance to the red zone.

Brookhaven managed to break up the see-saw battle late in the second quarter when senior running back Tre McDaniel plowed through Natchez defense to score a 5-yard rushing touchdown with 4:09 remaining.

The Bulldogs fought back to keep the game close as they marched down the field to score on their last drive of the first half. Scott hooked up with Sidney Davis for a 7-yard passing touchdown with :22 second left. The Panthers led at halftime 21-18 over Natchez.

In the second half, both teams wanted to continue to light up the scoreboard offensively, but it would be the defense that would be the deciding factor in keeping the scoring drives to the minimum.

In the third quarter, Natchez would come out and reclaim the lead on a 50-yard touchdown strike from Scott to Dominique Ishman with 8:46 left.

Brookhaven answered the Bulldogs’ challenge once again and punched in a six-yard run by McDaniel with 5:23 remaining. After three quarters of action, BHS led 28-24 over the Bulldogs.

In the final quarter on the contest, the battle heated up for both teams. Ole Brook managed to increase their lead to 31-24 on Tyler Mixon’s 22-yard field goal with 9:52 remaining.

Natchez fought back to tie the game on a 7-yard pass from Scott to Malik Dixon. The Bulldogs elected to go for the two-point conversion again, instead of kicking the extra point and were successful as Scott connected with Davis on a pass play with 8:35 left.

The Panthers rallied back to reclaime the lead at 34-32 with 6:07 remaining as Mixon nailed his second field goal of the night on a 21-yard try.

Throughout the remainder of the contest, Natchez’s offense fought hard to steal away the win, but Ole Brook’s defense worked even harder to the Bulldogs in check. Brookhaven relied on their strong running game to keep the clock running.

In the final minute of action, Natchez managed to put together a last minute effort to steal away the victory after setting up inside the red zone. After a quick Natchez timeout, Panthers defense was prepared for the challenge and deny the Bulldogs on four straight passing plays to secured the turnover on downs and win.

Offensively, McDaniel powered the Panthers ground attack with 33 rushes for 215 yards. Jon Mark Mathis contributed 106 yards on five carries.

Chris Scott directed the Bulldogs attack completing 29-of-54 passes for 431 yards. Davis was the top receiver with 13 catches for 175 yards.

Defensively, Ben Robinson led the Panther with nine tackles. Leo Lewis contributed eight stops. Greg Watts provided six tackles and intercepted a pass. Lazorian McNulty broke up three passes and had a interception.

Ole Brook (5-4, 2-3) returns to action Thursday for another big region test on the road. The Panthers will battle the Wingfield Falcons at Forest Hill. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.