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Natchez falls in battle for first

Petal’s Bo Waites breaks away from Natchez defender Revonne Corey. (Ryan Moore \ The Hattiesburg American)

By Jason Munz

The Hattiesburg American

PETAL — Petal running back Bo Waites might be 5-foot-6, 144 pounds.

Maybe.

That’s what he’s listed as on the official Panther football roster, but in standout running back Tyus Raine’s three-game absence due to a hamstring injury, the sturdy senior has stood tall and given his team a real shot in the arm.

None more so than Friday against Natchez, in a game with sole possession of first place in Region 3-6A on the line.

Waites ran for 89 yards on 21 carries and scored four touchdowns, leading Petal to a 41-20 victory over Natchez. The Panthers improve to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in region play, while the Bulldogs fall to 6-2 and 3-1.

Prior to Friday’s game, Waites had one career touchdown, which came last season.

“(Raine) is hurt,” Waites said. “So I’ve just had to step up. I’ve had to do my job and do whatever my team needs me to do.”

In the three games without Raine, Waites has rushed for a combined 268 yards and four touchdowns.

“Hey, another big game for Bo,” Petal head coach Marcus Boyles said. “I can’t say enough about that young man.”

Petal didn’t have to wait long for Waites to get going. On the fourth play from scrimmage for the Panthers, he took the handoff around left end from 10 yards out to give the home team a lead it would never relinquish.

Waites padded the Panther lead with a 14-yard score with 8:03 left in the second quarter.

Petal led 14-0 at halftime.

Panther linebacker Forrest Harvey said having the right mindset coming into the game was key.

“We beat (Natchez) pretty good last year,” he said. “All week, we were told that this wasn’t the same (Natchez) team as last year. They shocked 6A by beating Meridian, and they had the same record as us for a reason.”

Turns out, Harvey was right.

After Petal took what seemed to be a commanding 28-0 lead, the Bulldogs began working their way back into the game. With 5:49 left in the third quarter, Anthony Robinson found Sidney Davis from 6 yards out.

Five minutes later, Robinson scored on a 10-yard run to cut the Panther lead in half with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.

Natchez head coach Lance Reed said maintaining an up-tempo style of play on offense was a big reason why his team was able to claw its way back into the game.

“That’s what we do,” he said. “But offensively, we felt like we let go of some opportunities and didn’t execute like we should have. That was an excellent team we played. They caught us in some spots and made a few more plays than we did.”

Three plays after Natchez made it 28-14, Waites bounded into the end zone from 3 yards out.

Two plays later, Harvey picked Robinson off, and on the next play, Larson Barkurn found Jamarcus Revies on a 22-yard, final nail-in-the-coffin touchdown pass.

“We were (trying to put the game away there),” Boyles said. “We were trying to put the dagger in the heart right there.”

Mission accomplished.

The Panthers travel to Meridian next week.

“We control our own destiny,” Boyles said. “This was a big win for us tonight to put us in that position. Now, we’ve just got to finish out these last three games.”