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Wilkinson County falls to Hazlehurst in South State title game

Wilkinson County High School senior Rashawn Montgomery takes a knee in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in the South State championship game against Hazelhurst High School Friday night. Wilkinson County lost to Hazlehurst, 36-22. (Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat)
Wilkinson County High School senior Rashawn Montgomery takes a knee in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in the South State championship game against Hazelhurst High School Friday night. Wilkinson County lost to Hazlehurst, 36-22. (Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat)

Woodville — After keeping things neck and neck with Hazlehurst High School Friday night, Wilkinson County High School saw its chances at a state title berth slip away in the fourth quarter of the South State title game.

Hazlehurst went ahead 30-22 with 7:01 left in the game, and the Wildcats were unable to mount a comeback. Hazlehurst went on to score one more time to secure a 36-22 win.

The Wildcats (12-3) started the game with a lot of energy as their defense proved to be too much for Hazlehurst early.

Both teams went scoreless in the first quarter, but Hazlehurst struck first in the second quarter on a 4-yard rush from Dycelious Reese. The two-point conversion run by Jarvis Warner put the Indians up 8-0 with 11:55 on the clock.

It was like a game of catch-up for Wilkinson, as each time the Indians scored, the Wildcats had an answer.

That answer came on a connection from Devin Voorhies to Allenzae Staggers on a 27-yard touchdown pass with 7:56 left in the half. Wilkinson evened the score at eight with a two-point conversion pass.

The third quarter saw a lot more action from both teams, and again, the Indians got in the end zone first.

Warren completed a 25-yard pass to Dedric Rose, but failed to complete the extra-point kick at the 10:10 mark. Voorhies kept the score tight with a 36-yard touchdown rush, but their two-point conversion attempt failed, to keep the score 14-14.

Both teams scored again, beginning with Hazlehurst on a 3-yard run from John Bridges with 3:48 left in the third. A pass to Dedric Reese secured the two-point conversion, making it 22-14.

Wilkinson came right back with a 3-yard pass to D’Kendrick Smith from Voorhies at the 29.4-second mark in the third. A pass to Allenzae Staggers on the two-point conversion tied it at 22.

With both teams entering the fourth quarter 22-22, it was Wilkinson’s chance to finally take the front seat in the game.

But the Wildcats’ many chances failed as the Indians moved ahead 30-22 on a 95-yard drive that resulted in a 1-yard run by Warren, who also completed the two-point conversion run with 8:01 left to play.

From there, the Wildcats let frustration get the best of them. They had one more chance to even the score on a fumble return by Smith at the 2:35 mark, but two plays later, Voorhies fumbled the ball, and Bridges picked it up and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown to end the game 36-22.

Wildcats head coach Kenneth Brown said it was obvious that the players’ frustrations changed the outcome of the game.

“When things don’t look like they’re going in your favor, it gets frustrating,” he said. “We’re dealing with young kids, but they had to realize that we were still in it.”

Brown said despite falling behind in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats gave it their all and had a great overall season.

“We gave it our best effort, and that’s all we can ask for,” Brown said. “The kids played their hearts out.

“They’re the defending state champs, and they know what it takes to pull it out. We lost it at the end, but it was a great game.”

The Wilkinson County High School Wildcats made it to the South State championship for the first time in school history.