Natchez High gets first playoff win in 11 years

Published 1:28 am Saturday, November 15, 2008

PETAL — Not many people gave Natchez High much of a chance to even hang with, much less defeat, Region 4-5A champion Petal in the first round of the Class 5A South State playoffs.

However, the Bulldogs had other ideas.

Natchez High scored the winning touchdown with a minute to go and stunned the Panthers 25-21 on the road Friday night. It was the school’s first playoff victory since the 1997 team went to the South State Championship game.

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“They knew how big it was. They knew how important it was to come out here and play hard,” Natchez High head coach Lance Reed said. “They respected us from the beginning. You can never underestimate your opponent in the playoffs.”

Petal may have thought it was going to have an easy time defeating a team that is not used to playing in the postseason. But when the game was still scoreless at the end of the first quarter, the Panthers should have known they would be in for a battle.

Natchez High (7-4) scored on a 37-yard field goal by Charell Carter in the second quarter, but Petal scored a touchdown in that same quarter to take a 7-3 halftime lead.

The two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter. The Bulldogs scored on a 6-yard run by Javon Washington, the first of three by him in the second half.

Petal (10-2) appeared in command when it scored another touchdown to go up 21-10 early in the fourth quarter. But Natchez refused to go down.

Washington scored on a 1-yard run and added the two-point conversion run to make it a 21-18 game. Then with about a minute left, on 4th-and-1, Washington ran in from 6 yards out and Carter added the extra point to give the Bulldogs a 25-21 lead.

“Offensively, we took what was given to us and executed quite well,” Reed said. “That makes all the difference in the world.”

Natchez High recovered a fumble by Petal on the ensuing kickoff and ran the clock out.

Washington, who has been known for his passing throughout the season, led the Bulldogs in rushing with 159 yards on 16 carries. He also completed five-of-nine passes for 46 yards.

“We made timely stops at the end. That was key,” Reed said.

Willie Newman had 10 carries for 86 yards and Rico Richardson added four carries for 59 yards to go with two catches for 20 yards. Just as important, the Bulldogs did not turn the ball over at all.

Natchez High will host a very familiar opponent in the second round of the playoffs in Region 3-5A runner-up Oak Grove Friday at 7 p.m. at Tom F. Williams Stadium.