Natchez High gets emotional season-ending win

Published 12:49 am Saturday, November 3, 2012

Natchez High School’s Tyler Williams celebrates with his teammates after blocking Oak Grove High School’s field goal attempt, securing Natchez’s 41-40 lead at the end of Friday’s game. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Tyler Williams’ senior season was in the balance as he lined up, knowing he had to get his hand on the pigskin to save a win for the Bulldogs.

“I knew we had come too far to lose, and I had to do whatever I could,” Williams said. “I knew no matter what happened I could not give up.”

Williams broke through the outside of the Oak Grove High School line as the Warriors’ kicker Luke Little put his foot to a potential game-winning field goal with six seconds left in the game. The Natchez High senior dove, and the ball connected with his right hand. Once he touched the ball, Williams knew the game was won.

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“My body just took over, and I started celebrating,” he said. “I celebrated on the field with my teammates surrounding me.”

The blocked 33-yard field goal attempt secured a 41-40 victory for Natchez over Oak Grove, and at the time kept Natchez alive for the playoffs.

The players soon found out that Meridian High School had won its game against Forest Hill, which eliminated the Bulldogs from the postseason. But Williams said that did not matter right after the game.

Bulldog Nicholas Barnes carries the ball as he is tackled by Oak Grove High School’s Shane McLendon and Cameron Myers. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

“This is the best moment of my life,” he said. “The playoffs don’t matter right now.”

Friday night’s game with the Warriors was a back-and-forth battle that saw Natchez take a 33-14 lead in the third quarter before Oak Grove stormed back to lead 40-33 midway through the fourth.

But the Bulldogs’ offense righted the ship for one final drive that lasted 13 plays, covered 76 yards and ended with quarterback Anthony Robinson finding wideout Sidney Davis on a 7-yard touchdown pass.

With the score 40-39 in favor of Oak Grove and 32 seconds remaining, Natchez head coach Lance Reed did not want to play for overtime and sent his offense out on the field for the go-ahead two-point conversion.

Robinson handed off to senior Nicholas Barnes, who busted through the middle and carried a pack of players into the end zone to give Natchez a one-point lead.

Reed said the Bulldogs’ ability to overcome adversity had defined his team all season.

“I am so proud of these guys,” Reed said. “This might have been one of the proudest moments I’ve had. The character they displayed and toughness showed a lot.”

The quarterbacks of both teams put on a show Friday night in front of NFL legend Brett Favre, who was standing on the Oak Grove sideline.

Robinson completed 27 of 42 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. His counterpart from Oak Grove, Kirk McCarty, had a big game himself. McCarty completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns.

Davis was Robinson’s primary target Friday night. The two connected 18 times for 214 yards and all three passing touchdowns.

“Coach called the right plays at the right times, and when the ball hit my hands I made plays,” Davis said. “(Robinson) had good precision (on his passes).”

The former NFL signal-caller said he thought that the Bulldogs’ athletes would be a challenge for his team.

Oak Grove High School assistant coach and former NFL player Brett Favre, left, stands with other coaches on the sideline during Friday’s game at Natchez High School. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

“They’ve got some pretty good athletes,” Favre said. “They have some good football players. They beat Meridian, and that’s something right there.”

It was not all easy for Robinson, who threw back-to-back interceptions late in the game before leading the Bulldogs to the final scoring drive.

“I threw the ball pretty well despite the two interceptions,” he said. “It wasn’t me (that recovered from the mistakes), it was my teammates. They came and told me to keep my head up.”

Oak Grove tight end Logan Scott had a big night receiving himself. Scott found himself on the end of three Warrior touchdown passes.

Oak Grove scored the first touchdown of the game when McCarty connected with Gunner Placide on an 11-yard touchdown.

Natchez answered by scoring the next 19 points on a touchdown pass from Robinson to Davis, a touchdown run by Barnes and a 27-yard interception return by Kris Weatherspoon.

Oak Grove scored just before the half ended when Cameron Myers connected with Scott to make the halftime score 19-14 Natchez.

Barnes scored to open the second half for Natchez, and Davis and Robinson connected again with 4:33 left in the third to put Natchez up 33-14.

Davis said his second touchdown catch — a 5-yard route that turned into a 49-yard touchdown after Davis broke a tackle — was the one that he will remember for a long time.

Oak Grove then started its run by scoring two touchdowns before the fourth quarter began. McCarty found Logan on touchdown passes of 27 and 8 yards to make the score 33-28 after three quarters.

The Warriors scored the first two touchdowns of the fourth quarter to take the lead. McCarty scored on a 6-yard run, and Myers caught a 3-yard pass from McCarty to put Oak Grove up 40-33.

After Natchez took the lead, Oak Grove had one last gasp and made the most of it by hitting a 50 yard pass to get into field goal range.

But Williams’ heroics with six seconds left ended the Warriors’ season.

The senior said he was glad to make such a big play for his graduating class.

“In my opinion, this is the best senior class to come through Natchez,” he said. “I love these boys. I love them to death.”

Natchez (7-4, 4-3) ended its season with the win. Oak Grove finished its season 7-4 overall and 3-4 in MHSAA Region 3-6A.