4th quarter scores the difference in 34-20 BHS win over Lawrence County

Published 9:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2023

Like a bolt of lightning streaking across the night sky, the same kind of lightning that caused a 30-minute delay at the start of the second quarter, with that type of quickness the Brookhaven High Panthers scored on three straight long runs in the fourth quarter to snatch a 34-20 win over visiting Lawrence County in a game that had been nip-and-tuck in the early going.

After initially leading 14-0 in the second quarter, Ole Brook saw Lawrence County battle back to tie the game at 14-14 at halftime in the season opener for both teams.

With eight seconds left in the third quarter, LC went ahead 20-14 when senior quarterback Kannon Cato ran in from the 5-yard line. The Cougars were facing a 4th-and-1 situation on the scoring play.

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Needing a spark, Brookhaven High head coach Tucker Peavey inserted freshman quarterback Jaden Allen on the following drive.

While at Alexander last year as an eighth grader, Allen won the MHSAA state middle school championship in the 100 and 200-meter dashes. Folks in Brookhaven have known how fast Allen has been for a long time.

On the second play of the drive, Allen showed that breakaway speed as he raced for a 69-yard touchdown run that ignited the home side of King Field.

Senior Bryce Smith booted the PAT through, and BHS led 21-20 with 11:11 left in the game.

As the Panther offense came to life, the defense began to follow suit, forcing LC into back-to-back punts on the Cougar’s side of the field.

Brookhaven High senior running back Xavier Gayten then showed the home crowd why he earned offers from Ole Miss and Mississippi State this summer before eventually giving the Bulldogs his verbal commitment.

Gayten broke through the first line of the Lawrence County defense and hit the turbo button on the way to a 49-yard touchdown run.

“The safeties were really close to the sideline, and I knew if I could get past the linebackers, there would be a hole through the middle,” said Gayten. “My line gave me a hole up front, and I did my best to outrun everyone behind me.”

Gayten wasn’t done though as he ripped off a 70-yard scoring run with 49 seconds left that set off a party in the home stands and gave BHS the final 14-point cushion in a game that had been tight for the first three quarters.

BHS went up 14-0 behind a short touchdown run from Gayten and a scoring scamper from sophomore starting quarterback Dreamus Harron.

Harron had a snap slip through his hands, but as he plucked it out of the air, the Lawrence County defenders checked up and he was able to run for an 11-yard score that put the Panthers up 14-0 with 8:25 until halftime.

LC and coach Jesse Anderson kept plugging though and got on the board when their senior running back Ahmad Hardy scored from 10-yards out with just over four minutes left in the half.

It was classic Hardy as the powerfully built runner had at least six defenders to touch him, but none brought him down.

The score then was tied up when quarterback Kannon Cato found senior tight end Elijah Smith on a short touchdown pass that knotted the game at 14-14.

That touchdown came just a minute after the first LC score as the offensive possession between the touchdowns went backwards and ended with a punt.

The game had all the things you love about two rivals meeting in a high school football game with big crowds that cheered loudly for their team until the end.

It also had some of the stuff you don’t love to see, especially if you are a coach. Both squads struggled to hold onto a slippery ball at times and penalties plagued the game with BHS making some big mistakes that negated long runs or big defensive stops.

“We had some really selfish penalties tonight and we can’t expect to beat anybody while making plays like that,” said BHS head coach Tucker Peavey.

As Lawrence County sprinted back into the game in the second quarter, the Ole Brook sideline was a little extra down after senior linebacker Jimmy Johns Jr. went to the bench with a leg injury.

Johns Jr. is a tone setter for defensive coordinator Corey McLaurin and his speed and ability to run down Cato and Hardy was missed for the rest of the game.

Senior safety Nate Lewis is another leader on the defense and together he and his teammates began to swarm Hardy near the line of scrimmage and stopped over pursuing Cato who’s always a threat to tuck the ball and run on a designed pass.

The win broke a three-game winning streak for Lawrence County in the series with BHS and was a nice way to kick off the 2023 season after the Panthers finished 1-9 last year.

Next up for BHS is another home date, this one with the Franklin County Bulldogs. LC will be on the road again next week with a trip to face perennial 3A title contender Jefferson Davis County.