Tigers pounce on Bulldogs to open district play

Published 11:56 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Hattiesburg (1-3) pounced on the visiting Natchez Bulldogs winning 40-30 to open region play. Natchez scored 12 points in the first quarter but it was not enough as the Tigers out scored them in the next three quarters. 

Hattiesburg scored the first touchdown of the game. About 10 seconds later, the Tigers gave up a touchdown on Natchez’s 87-yard kickoff return by Demarcco Blanton. Bulldog head coach Randy Craft said it was an explosive play.

After a fumble recovery, Natchez took four plays and scored on Kyreek Murray’s 35-yard pass to Michael Williams to take the lead 12-6 with 1:47 to go in the first quarter. 

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“It was our first time getting on offense early in our game,” Craft said. “We felt like we could play with these guys. We felt pretty good. We were clicking on offense and slowing Hattiesburg down.”  

Before halftime, Hattiesburg scored and led the Bulldogs 13-12. Natchez’s first drive after halftime resulted in a 71-yard passing touchdown from Murray to Demarcco Blanton as they regained the lead 18-12 with 11:11 to go in the third quarter. 

With 3:51 left in the third quarter, Natchez struck through the air again on a pass by Murray to take a 24-20 lead. On special teams, disaster struck the bulldogs as a blocked punt was recovered for a touchdown. Hattiesburg led 27-24 with 32 seconds left in the third quarter. 

“It changed the momentum because it allowed Hattiesburg to go up three points. It flipped the field,” Craft said. “They came through and blocked a punt and got six points out of it. We are working on punting in practice. It was just a high snap on the play and it threw us off our steps. 

Natchez scored again on a three-yard pass from Murray to Traylon Minor to regain the lead 30-27 with 9:20 left in the fourth quarter. Hattiesburg scored two touchdowns to take a 10 point lead. Natchez responded again through the air and Mike Williams caught a 68-yard pass from Murray to cut the lead to 40-36 but they could not add anymore to their score and fell shy of a win. 

“I just know our guys made a lot of strides and are playing through adversity,” Craft said. “It proves we can play with this top level competition. There will not be a game where we feel out of it. We know we can make plays, we just have to execute plays down the stretch.”