Natchez beats Hattiesburg; headed back to playoffs

Published 1:39 am Saturday, November 7, 2009

HATTIESBURG — Natchez High’s football team made its way into Hattiesburg High’s D.I. Patrick Stadium on Friday night knowing a loss would’ve eliminated the Bulldogs from postseason play, while a win would have assured them of a playoff berth.

The Bulldogs had nothing to lose and everything to gain — and they played like it, too. Natchez High (8-3, 5-2 in Region 3-6A) capitalized on three Tiger turnovers and earned a spot in the playoffs by beating Hattiesburg 29-20.

“That’s how the ball bounces sometimes,” Natchez head coach Lance Reed said. “We got the good bounces tonight and that’s really kind of what it boils down to.”

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With the win, Natchez will host Petal High next week in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. Meanwhile, Hattiesburg (6-5, 4-3) will travel to Ocean Springs to begin its trek toward a state championship.

Hattiesburg head coach Doug Hoehn said it was obvious what caused his team’s downfall on Friday.

“The game came down to penalties, turnovers and dropped balls,” he said. “Turnovers, penalties and dropped passes killed us. But (the loss) wasn’t for a lack of effort. The kids played hard, and I’m proud of them.”

In a game that featured plenty of momentum shifts, the Tigers delivered the first blow, when quarterback Tevin Chapman scored on a 3-yard run on the home team’s first possession of the game. But Natchez answered with 10:06 left in the second quarter, when quarterback Javon Washington connected with Kevin Bailey from 10 yards out for one of his four touchdown passes.

“That’s what he does,” Reed said. “He’s a third-year starter, and he’s a leader. He can throw and run and that’s what we expect him to do.”

Washington and Bailey hooked up again with 2:11 remaining in the second quarter to put the Bulldogs up 14-7. Natchez would score once more on a 67-yard touchdown pass from Washington to Santorius Pollard before the tide began to turn in favor of Hattiesburg.

With the score 22-7 in favor of Natchez, Hattiesburg’s Marcquise Hosey rumbled 33 yards to narrow the gap to 22-13 after the two-point conversion attempt failed. The Tigers forced Natchez to go three-and-out on its next possession, which set up Hattiesburg’s next score — a 44-yard touchdown run by Chapman that made it 22-20 in favor of the Bulldogs.

“We had the momentum,” Hoehn said. “We came out and played our guts out in the second half. But the penalties and turnovers got us.”

On Hattiesburg’s next possession, Natchez blocked a 34-yard field goal attempt and six plays later recovered a muffed punt. Five plays after that, Washington found Pollard from 13 yards out to put the nail in Hattiesburg’s proverbial coffin.

“(Washington) kind of took over,” Reed said. “He wanted the ball and wanted to make big plays and he did.”

Following the loss, Hoehn said his team needs to have a short memory.

“This one hurt, I can promise you that,” he said. “But we’ve just got to come in Monday ready to work.”

Washington led Natchez with 134 yards rushing on 14 carries, as well as throwing for 137 yards and four touchdowns. Pollard ended the night with 73 receiving yards to lead the Bulldogs.

Hosey led the Tigers with 166 yards on 22 carries, while Chapman tallied 115 on 21 rushes.