Brookhaven High buries Vancleave 55-7 in 5A first round matchup

Published 7:55 am Saturday, November 11, 2023

The Vancleave Bulldogs (4-7) recovered the opening kickoff on Friday to start their MHSAA 5A first round game at Brookhaven High (7-4).

The low, squib kick bounced off the hands of a Panther player and was pounced on by a pack of charging Bulldogs.

Running between the tackles, Vancleave put together a drive down the short field to score on a quarterback keeper by Hunter Parker that put the Bulldogs up 7-0 with 7:22 left in the first quarter.

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And that just about wraps up the highlights on the night for the Bulldogs as Brookhaven High won going away, 55-7 on King Field.

The win sets up a second round pairing next week at Laurel High (6-6). Laurel beat Provine (6-6) by a 43-6 final score Friday between the bricks in Watkins Stadium.

Vancleave, coached by former Mississippi State quarterback Kevin Fant, had a big contingent of fans that made the trek up from Jackson County. The Bulldog faithful appeared to outnumber the fans on the home side of King Field as the cold, damp evening made for one of the smallest crowd of the season at BHS.

The difference wasn’t the fans in the stands though, it was the players on the field and no one wearing the white uniform of Vancleave could handle the playmaking abilities of Brookhaven High senior running back Xavier Gayten. 

On the second play after VHS scored its lone touchdown, Gayten shot through a hole to score on a 48-yard touchdown run. The PAT kick went awry on a high snap and Vancleave led 7-6.

BHS took the lead for good when senior Dequane Fox took a jet-sweep handoff around the right side of the line on a touchdown run that put the Panthers up 13-7 to end the first quarter. Fox also had a fumble recovery in the first half.

The game had a long stoppage with 9:51 left in the second quarter as the referees tried to sort out a mess of their own creation.

Vancleave picked up a first down and the officials waved for the chains to move up on a 4th-and-short situation.

The refereeing crew then decided that they should have measured the spot with the chains. At that point though, the location of the previous spot had been lost.

Fant and his coaching staff were livid at the chains being moved back and then being brought out for the measurement, which was short of the marker and gave BHS back possession of the ball.

There was a lot of arguing and talking and not much action as things got sorted out.

Two of the chain crew members were volunteers from Vancleave and when the measurement came up short for their team, they quit on the spot.

The two Vancleave chain crew dudes jerked off the neon bibs they had been wearing and got a cheer from the Bulldog fans similar to the pop that Stone Cold Steve Austin might get when he appears at the next WrestleMania.

What made Fant even more indignant was that Gayten almost immediately scored on a 57-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers up 20-7 after the brouhaha.

The following Vancleave possession ended in a punt and the snap on that play was low. The unlucky VHS punter had no chance to get his foot on the ball before BHS junior defensive end Gaylon Gayten smashed into him to give the Panthers the ball back.

Two plays later, Gaylon’s older brother Xavier scored on another long touchdown, this one from 55-yards, to give BHS a 27-7 lead, which is where things stood at halftime. 

The second half was more of BHS domination.

There are now eight teams remaining in the 5A bracket. The matchups in the northern half of the bracket next week are Clarksdale (8-3) against Lafayette (7-4) and West Point (8-3) versus Holmes County Central (11-0).

The winner of the BHS and Laurel pairing will move on to face the winner of Florence (8-4) and Gautier (7-4) in the 5A South State Championship game.