Hattiesburg uses ground game to put away homestanding NHS

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Hattiesburg’s running tandem of sophomore Jonathan Kirksey and junior Shaun Ingram had their way with Natchez High’s defense during the Bulldogs’ homecoming game Friday night at Tom F. Williams Memorial Stadium.

In fact the Tigers were so dominant in their 46-8 win over the Bulldogs that they played more like the undefeated and sixth-ranked LSU Tigers than a team that went into the game with a 2-4 record.

Kirksey had 27 carries for 275 yards and three touchdowns and Ingram added seven carries for 112 yards as the Tigers improved to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in Region 3-5A.

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&uot;The running game has been consistent all year,&uot; Tigers head coach Clemon Ector said. &uot;We knew all along that Kirksey was going to be good. Shaun did a great job for us, too.&uot;

Hattiesburg scored on its first four possessions in the first half to jump out to a 25-0 halftime lead &045; touchdown runs of 17 and 1 yards by Kirksey and 3 and 1 yards by quarterback Dwight McClendon.

Kirksey had 167 yards in the first quarter alone on his way to a big-time performance.

&uot;I just played my game,&uot; Kirksey said. &uot;The offensive line gets most of the credit tonight. They get the credit.&uot;

As for Ingram’s performance, Kirksey said, &uot;He was a little nervous before the game. Once he got the ball in the first half he calmed down.&uot;

The Tigers’ first four touchdown drives took no more than two minutes each even though they were running the ball a lot.

In fact, McClendon didn’t throw a pass until late in the first quarter &045; a 35-yard completion to Marquis McFarland on 2nd and 37 from Hattiesburg’s own 49-yard line after a holding penalty and two delay of game penalties that set up the Tigers’ third touchdown.

&uot;Poor execution. Poor tackling,&uot; Bulldogs head coach James Denson said. &uot;We never could stop them.&uot;

Natchez senior Jason Hayes made his first start of the season at quarterback and was rattled quite often by a Tigers defense that held him to 2 of 7 passing with one interception for 16 yards in the first half.

&uot;This is his first game starting,&uot; Denson said. &uot;I think he was nervous in the first half. The second half he settled down.&uot;

After McClendon scored on a 1-yard run with 3:45 to go in the third quarter to make it a 32-0 game, Hayes hit Edwin Murrell on a 20-yard pass and, three plays later, threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Justin McDonald with 1:27 left.

Hattiesburg scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, first on a 31-yard pass from backup signal-caller Jermaine Jackson to McFarland and a 25-yard run by Kirksey on an option pitch from Jackson.

The Tigers defense, which helped them to upset wins over Moss Point and Harrison Central earlier in the season, held Natchez (1-6, 0-3) to 118 yards of total offense.