NHS beats Jefferson Co.

Published 1:19 am Saturday, August 27, 2011

Natchez High’s Larry Chatman gets past Jefferson County’s Olagawon O’Neal during their game Friday night at Natchez High’s Stadium. Natchez High won 27-20. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Natchez High School quarterback Derrian Johnson just needed a first down, but he decided to go the extra yards.

Thirty-three extra yards, to be exact, as he tallied a 43-yard touchdown run by plowing through several Jefferson County defenders with 1:22 left in the fourth quarter to put Natchez ahead by two touchdowns.

Not even what was literally a last-second touchdown by Jefferson County made a difference, as NHS topped the Tigers Friday night 27-20 in a game that was close for most of its almost four-hour duration.

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“I just wanted to have a good way to end the game,” Johnson said as he limped to the huddle following the game.

“I’m a little tired and sore, but I’ll work on the bumps and bruises (today) when we watch film.”

NHS head coach Lance Reed said he was impressed with Johnson’s toughness in that situation, and he wasn’t surprised Jefferson County kept the game so close until the very end.

“It was a tremendous effort by him on that play,” Reed said. “We expect that out of him, to make plays and get the job done. We’re just a work in progress right now.

“We expected (a fight) from Jefferson County. We knew they’d come down and be a tough team. They’re a solid program, and they play physical.”

NHS led just 13-12 coming into the fourth quarter, but a touchdown drive that ended with a 5-yard scoring run by Bulldog running back Larry Chatman made it 20-6 with 10:45 left to play.

What followed was a back-and-forth between the Bulldogs and the Tigers. NHS recovered the ball on the ensuing kickoff on the Jefferson County 17 after a Tiger player touched the ball. But the Bulldogs’ drive stalled out, and Jefferson County took over on its own 33.

The Tigers made it all the way to the Bulldogs’ 39, but Tigers quarterback Monroe Barnes was picked off by Lee Jackson.

NHS drove the ball to the Jefferson County 22, but a holding call stalled the drive, and the Bulldogs turned it over on fourth down. The Bulldog defense then forced a three-and-out, and the Tigers punted the ball to their own 43-yard line.

With less than two minutes to play, the Bulldogs looked to get a first down and run the clock out — until Johnson took matters into his own hands.

On the ensuing Jefferson County possession, the Tigers drove the ball 86 yards on four passing plays, topped off by a 27-yard touchdown pass by Jefferson County’s Devion Bradley with 1.7 seconds left in regulation. But with such little time left, even an attempted onside kick — which NHS recovered anyway — probably wouldn’t have given the Tigers a chance for a miracle play.

Jefferson County finished the game with 14 penalties for 105 yards, and Tigers head coach James Herrington singled out his team’s mistakes as a major key to their loss.

“Mistakes represent a lack of focus,” Herrington said. “I just didn’t get them prepared this week. They played their hearts out. He who blames his tools is a poor carpenter.”

Jefferson County scored on its opening possession with a 65-yard touchdown run by Akil Reynolds with 11:08 left in the first. The Tigers went for two but failed to convert, giving them a 6-0 lead.

NHS scored on a 3-yard run by Chatman with 4:57 left in the first. Herbert Steadman’s PAT was good, giving the Bulldogs a 7-6 lead after one.

Natchez scored again in the second on a 36-yard run by Johnson with 9:54 to go before halftime. The PAT was no good, and NHS led 13-6 at the half.

Jefferson County cut the NHS lead 13-12 in the third when Nazarius King caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Barnes with 10:23 left.

The Bulldogs finished with 403 total rushing yards. Johnson led in rushing with 203 yards, and Chatman added 170 yards.

Barnes was 18-for-42 in passing with one interception for Jefferson County. The Tigers rushed just 20 times for a total of 109 yards.

NHS (2-0) travels to Ferriday High School next Friday, while Jefferson County (1-1) will host Port Gibson.