Two-minute miracle: Natchez escapes with narrow win over Jefferson County
Friday night felt like an eternity for some, but Natchez High School needed just two minutes to bring it to an end.
Luckily for the Bulldogs, it ended in a miracle.
Bulldog quarterback Paul Hargrave connected with a sprinting James Singleton on Natchez’s seven-play, 58-yard final drive to tie a nearly three-hour-long game against Jefferson County. Juan Boteo kicked the winning extra point as the Bulldogs escaped with a 33-32 victory on the road.
“We work on the two-minute offense during the week,” Natchez coach Roy Rigsby said. “We work on those situations, so we were prepared.
“What got us was the will to win.”
On the winning drive with 1:57 remaining in the game, Hargrave completed 4-of-5 passes including the 21-yard touchdown to Singleton. He ended the night with 295 yards passing, no interceptions and one other score through the air.
“I knew we had to score,” Hargrave said. “I told James to be open, and he did it. Then I told Juan he could do it, too.”
And that he did.
“I just tried to live in the moment,” Boteo said. “I was pretty confident.”
With time ticking down, Rigsby said he would have been worried if he didn’t think his players could execute.
“To be honest, I believe in Paul, and I believe in all of them because they are playmakers,” he said. “It’s all about getting the opportunities, and we delivered.”
Even more miraculous than the two-minute win, perhaps, was the way Natchez fought back from trailing by as many as 20 points.
The Bulldogs lost three fumbles in the first half, costing them precious time of possession and granting the Tigers great field possession.
“I’m so happy for the fight the kids showed,” Rigsby said. “These guys continued on regardless of the situation.”
Jefferson County’s Dominique Gaines took the majority of the load for the Tigers. He ended the game with 187 yards rushing on 26 carries and two touchdowns, including a 7-yard score in the first half to aid his team to a 20-7 lead at halftime.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Jefferson County coach James Herrington said. “We have got to eliminate the mistakes that put us behind. We can get over the bad calls and things like that, but we have to eliminate ourselves from the equation. We have to fix the things we can control.”
Despite the loss, Herrington, too, saw just how hard his players can fight.
“Losing one this tough early in the season, we have got to go on. But, we are resilient,” he said. “I knew eventually the numbers would wear us down because we have a lot of guys playing both ways. It just got to us.”
As far as the future for the Bulldogs, Rigsby knows Friday’s win was far from perfect.
“Turnovers were a major problem,” he said. “We also had a problem snapping the ball. We have a lot of things we need to clean up.
“The good things about it is that we are cleaning up with a win.”
For as close as it was, considering Natchez held its first lead of the game with just 21 seconds remaining, Rigsby said he doesn’t want to imagine any other outcome.
“I’m really trying to remember this one. I don’t want to think about anything else,” he said.
For Jefferson County, Gailrontae Fells ended with two rushing touchdowns alongside Gaines.
Joes Davis also rushed for two touchdowns for the Bulldogs.
Natchez (1-0) will be back in action next week when it travels to Port Gibson, while Jefferson County (0-1) head on the road to play Amite County.