Collins uses fourth quarter field goal to move past Loyd Star in 2A second round

Published 8:10 am Saturday, November 11, 2023

A cold drizzle fell on the hushed home side of Loyd Star’s new football field on Friday night.

The mood was solemn as Collins High had just pulled off a 30-28 win in the MHSAA 2A second round matchup between them and the Hornets.

First year Loyd Star head coach Adam Smith talked with his team as they kneeled on the soggy sod at his feet.

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The 2023 season was a special one as Loyd Star finished 9-1 in the regular season and won Region 7-2A.

The loss hurt and the pain was especially strong for the seniors who saw their high school football careers end. In spite of that, Smith wanted his Hornets to know that once the pain fades over time, they’ll never forget the year they’ve had.

“I’m not hanging my head about anything,” said Smith to his team. “This is a job that I’ve wanted for a long time and there isn’t a team in the entire country I’d rather coach than you all.”

Collins had loaded its buses by the time Loyd Star said the Lord’s Prayer and broke down their final postgame huddle with a chant of, “family.”

The go-ahead score came in the fourth quarter on a 28-yard field goal by the visiting Tigers.

Loyd Star led 20-13 at halftime behind the strength of three rushing touchdowns from freshman quarterback Jordyn Kees.

The third quarter was all Collins though, as the Hornets had two consecutive drives that ended with turnovers that led to Tiger touchdowns and a 27-20 advantage for the visitors from Covington County.

Just before the end of the third quarter, the Hornets took the lead back when Kees capped a drive with a short touchdown run.

Collins jumped offside on the PAT kick and with the ball moved closer to the goal line, Loyd Star went for a 2-point conversion.

Kees ran that in to put his team up 28-27 to start the final quarter.

Even after Collins went ahead midway through the fourth, it felt like Loyd Star would drive down and get a go-ahead score.

After all, this memorable season has been filled with plenty of close wins for the Hornets. 

They won a back-and-forth shootout 35-32 with Enterprise to start the season in the KDMC Kickoff Classic. At Richton, a late defensive stand gave the Hornets a 31-28 victory.

In region play, the Hornets trailed 6-0 at halftime on the road before coming back to tough out a 19-12 win over Amite County.

A week later in the first ever game on its new football field, Loyd Star got a memorable 23-21 Possum Bowl victory over Bogue Chitto. 

To close the regular season, Loyd Star went on the road and used a late score to beat 3A Franklin County 39-34 in Meadville. 

And last week to begin the playoffs, the Hornets made a goal line stand in the final minute to beat Lake 21-20 in the 2A first round.

It’s clear that winning close games is in the DNA of this team, but on Friday, the ball kept bouncing the way of Collins.

“We’ve gotten plenty of breaks to go our way all year long,” said Smith. “Tonight, that didn’t happen and we had some self-inflicted mistakes that we couldn’t overcome. Collins has a very good team, and they had a lot to do with those mistakes.”

The Loyd Star drive after the go-ahead field goal ended in a turnover on downs at midfield. 

The Hornet defense forced a punt after that, and LS got the ball back on its own 15-yard line with 1:42 left in the game.

That scoring threat ended when Collins safety Donte Booth intercepted a pass to give his team back possession. From there, the Tigers were able to kneel on the ball to preserve the win.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Booth was a good example of the size that Collins had on its roster. Jermell Chaney, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker was another Tiger that would catch your eye as soon as Collins gets off the bus.

Collins (7-4) will face Heidelberg (9-3) in the second round. Heidelberg beat Bay Springs (10-2) by a 20-14 final on Friday. Bay Springs had previously won back-to-back MHSAA 1A state titles before moving up to the 2A ranks this season.

Collins and Heidelberg play in the same region and the Oilers beat the Tigers 56-7 on Oct. 26.

The 10-wins by Smith and his team are the most for a Loyd Star squad since the 2009 Hornets went 10-2 for former coach Ryan Ross. 

Making up the senior class for Loyd Star are Tyler Leggett, Cooper Reid, Brandon Burt, Caleb Smith, Jaden Lea, Hayes Smith, Brayden Rutland, Ashton McCullough, Conner Crotwell and Conner Cunningham.

Their head coach hopes that one day when they think back to the 2023 season, they’ll remember those 10 wins above all else.

“You don’t forget the losses, I can remember the last game I lost as a player here at Loyd Star,” said Smith as he recalled a 1-point defeat at McLaurin in 2007. “The hurt does fade over time though and even though these guys are hurting bad right now, we’ve had a great season that I hope they’ll never forget. We want a year like this to be the standard for our program and I’m thankful for the hard work our guys put in all season long.”