Natchez falls in pre-Halloween game

Published 12:49 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

Natchez High School’s Cody Tucker attempts to elude Brandon defenders during their game Friday night at Natchez High. The Bulldogs lost 45-24. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Natchez High School was just 50 percent inside the red zone, and several key turnovers proved costly in a 45-24 blowout loss to Brandon High School Friday on senior night.

NHS scored in just three of six red zone appearances, and three turnovers — two on special teams — gave Brandon several easy touchdowns, putting the game out of reach for the hometown Bulldogs.

“(The turnovers were) huge,” NHS head coach Lance Reed said. “This was a game of spurts. Offensively, we had a great night, and defensively we weren’t as effective as we would have liked.

“We faced a good team. They moved the ball, had a good team, had a great tempo, so when you get opportunities, you really have to take advantage of them.”

The visiting Bulldogs from Brandon sent the opening kickoff high in the air, with it traveling approximately 20 yards. NHS seemed confused over how to field it, as it bounced off an NHS player, and Brandon recovered.

Brandon was able to take advantage of the short field, driving the ball into NHS territory and scoring on a 4-yard run by quarterback Gardner Minshew with 10:55 left in the first.

The visiting Bulldogs tried a short kick again, but NHS was able to recover and drive down the field before quarterback Derrian Johnson punched it in from 5 yards out. The extra point was no good, however, and NHS trailed 7-6 with 8:13 left in the first.

On Brandon’s ensuing possession, Minshew made an ill-advised throw, and the hometown Bulldogs’ Kris Weatherspoon was there to make him pay. Weatherspoon intercepted the ball and ran it back 71 yards for a touchdown with 7:43 left in the first. NHS missed the extra point again, giving it a 12-7 lead.

It was the last time NHS would lead in the game, however. Brandon actually fumbled the ball on their own 19-yard line on the following possession, but NHS was unable to find the endzone, turning the ball over on downs. Brandon scored again with 2:43 left in the first on a 5-yard run by running back Davien Tillis.

The visiting Bulldogs then tallied three touchdowns in the second quarter to give them a 31-12 lead at the half. Brandon kicker Matthew Spencer had a 30-yard field goal with 11:21 to go before the half. Later in the quarter, NHS failed to score from Brandon’s 5-yard line, and Brandon put together a 95-yard touchdown drive, finished off by Tillis’ 2-yard run with 3:54 left in the half.

A fumble by the hometown Bulldogs’ Amos James on the ensuing kickoff gave Brandon the ball on the NHS 19-yard line. Several plays later, Devin Wilson had a 4-yard touchdown carry to cap off Brandon’s second quarter with 2:04 left.

NHS’s red zone woes continued in the third quarter, as Brandon’s Taylor Polk intercepted a pass by Johnson inside the Brandon 20-yard line. Wilson scored on a 1-yard run to extend Brandon’s lead with 3:03 left in the third.

“We’ll go back and look at the film, examine it and see what happened, but you just have to make the best of your opportunities,” Reed said of his team’s red zone troubles. “You have to make the right calls, and we have to be effective in running those plays.”

Johnson scored on runs of 1 and 8 yards in the fourth quarter. Josh Stowers scored Brandon’s final touchdown with an 8-yard run. NHS (6-4, 2-4) will play at Oak Grove next week.