Natchez leads at half, falters against tough Laurel team

Published 1:10 am Saturday, October 18, 2014

Natchez High School’s Anthony Robinson gets overthrown in the end zone during a game against Laurel High School Friday. Laurel won the game 62-34. (Sam Gause \ The Natchez Democrat)

Natchez High School’s Anthony Robinson gets overthrown in the end zone during a game against Laurel High School Friday. Laurel won the game 62-34. (Sam Gause \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — The (4-4) Natchez Bulldogs stunned the (6-2) Laurel Golden Tornadoes and led them 28-19 at the half, but failed to finish the Golden Tornadoes off in a 62-34 defeat.

Laurel, who came into the game with heralded recruits, jumped on the Bulldogs 13-0 in the first quarter. After going down early on homecoming, senior wide receiver Sidney Davis asked head coach Melvin Pete to move him to quarterback. Pete listened, and the switch paid off.

Natchez seized momentum, marching down the field and scoring on back-to-back drives, both ending in Davis scores. Natchez took a 14-13 lead after Davis connected with Malik Byrd on a 32-yard touchdown eception. Laurel answered with 4-star quarterback Keon Howard scampering into the end zone from 13 yards out with five minutes left in the half, but Natchez answered immediately and scored twice before the half ended, both on Davis runs. Davis finished the game with 231 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and 26 receiving yards. He had four total touchdowns, but threw three interceptions.

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“We jumped out to a quick lead there in the beginning, but Natchez made some plays,” Laurel head coach Todd Breland said. “No. 1 (Davis) made some plays and really caused some fits.”

Natchez came out flat in the second half, and was outscored by Laurel 43-6 in the third and fourth quarters.

“The thing about it is we just run out of gas,” Pete said. “We just have to get better. We have to learn how to play for four quarters.”

Davis said overconfidence in the second half led to one of the most painful losses of his high school career.

“I swear it hurts,” Davis said. “Down deep in my heart, it does.”

The Bulldogs limited 4-star receiver Octavious Cooley to only two receptions for 55 yards in the loss, but could not contain Howard in the backfield. The dual threat quarterback finished the game with 204 yards passing and five total touchdowns.

When the Bulldogs mounted their comeback in the first quarter, Davis rolled out of the pocket and connected with Anthony Robinson for 30-plus gainers down the field. Robinson finished the game with five receptions for 82 yards. When Davis found Byrd for the go-ahead touchdown, the Bulldog bench went into a frenzy. Byrd finished the game with five receptions and 97 receiving yards.

After Davis scored the last touchdown of the half, he looked at the sideline, shaking his head as Natchez went into the locker room with all of the momentum. However, as Pete put it, “it was a game of two halves,” and the second half belonged to Laurel.

Once Laurel captured the momentum, the Bulldogs couldn’t stop them.

“We talked about it all week if this team ever gets momentum, they’re tough to beat,” Pete said. “We were able to get it back in the first half, but they’re so hard to stop when they have that momentum.”

Emphasizing the momentum factor is what Breland preaches on a daily basis.

“I told our team that over and over again, and I hope tonight we finally understand that,” Breland said. “If I could find a way to turn that switch on, I would write it in a book and sell it.”

The Bulldogs led the Golden Tornadoes 311 to 139 in total yards at the half, and though Laurel dominated the second, the Bulldogs still finished the game with 422 yards, 21 more than Laurel.

Scott came back into the game late and completed five of his nine passes for 42 yards.

If the Bulldogs want to reach the postseason, Pete said the team has to win out. That mission will begin on the road next Friday against Brookhaven.