By Sarah Moomaw / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
In preparation for Friday night's game, Quitman saw a hole in Northeast Lauderdale's game plan and took advantage of it, abusing the Trojans' special teams en route to a 45-7 win on the road in the last regular season game.
"Hats off to the kids, they've done everything we've asked them to," Quitman head coach Steve Bynum said. "We wanted to have a big win going to into playoffs and have things feeling good about ourselves and rolling, and superb job all the way around by our kids tonight."
Northeast surrendered 21 points off special team blunders, allowing Quitman to lock up a sweep of Region 5-4A, clinching the division title at 5-0 (6-4 overall). The Trojans finished their season at 4-7, 1-4.
"They just come out, our punt was bad," Northeast head coach Curt Blackburn said. "Anytime you spot a team 21 points off your special teams play, especially when they are as good as Quitman, you're going to come out bad side of things."
The Panthers opened the season playing higher class teams which resulted in a 0-4 start, making the season ending six-game winning streak even sweeter.
"Huge improvement, we got back to playing guys with our classification. It helped us see some weaknesses that we had, places we had to fix, and that's what its all about, your non-division scheduled ... it's not how you start, but how you finish and that's what we wanted to go by."
The game opened with a 33-minute first quarter as Quitman found the end zone three times, twice on Trojan special team mistakes.
Blackburn gave senior Haze Bosarge the start at punter for senior night, but he bobbled the first long snap.
"He's a great kid, he can actually punt it when he has time," Blackburn said. "He can kick it when he has a chance. Tonight, he was running for his life on every play."
The fumble rolled further behind the line of scrimmage, slipping through the hands of multiple Trojans and Panthers hands. Eventually Quitman's Josh Robinson scooped the ball off the ground and ran it in for a touchdown, 7-0 with 7:11 left in the first.
Two minutes later, the Panthers reached the end zone again. Quarterback Toriano Howard found Toyell Bell for a 12-yard pass to cap a three play drive and take a 14-0 lead. Howard opened the series, running the punt to the Trojan 23 from midfield.
On the Panthers' next drive, they capitalized on the scouting report to start rolling through the Trojans.
"We thought we could take advantage of a blocked punt or two by the distance he lined up, a little shallow, and we worked on that this week, and hey, it worked out for us," Bynum said.
Zack Packer recovered the ball on the 17-yard line to put the ball in the red zone to open the series. A 15-yard Panther penalty backed them up to the 28-yardline on the second play, but a successful halfback pass from DeQuan Stanley on a fourth-and-long to Bell for 27 yards put Quitman up 21-0 with 2:56 left in the first quarter.
Quitman's consecutive scoring drive streak ended early in the second quarter when they missed a 26-yard field goal.
Just before halftime, Northeast got a good punt off and the Panthers were forced to start on their own 40-yard line, but it wouldn't stop them from scoring.
Howard opened the drive with a 26-yard pass to Robinson. Four plays and two fouls later, Northeast recovered a fumble on the 20-yard line, but the possession was be called back by Trojan false start, forcing the fourth down to be replayed.
Howard started a chain of shuttle passes that moved the ball to within goal. It'd take two plays, but Howard took the ball into the end zone to make it a four score game from the 4-yard line, 28-0.
"We were just trying to find a play to score, I don't know how to explain it," Bynum said.
Quitman started the second half right were the left off, running a two-play 51 second drive for a 38-yard run by Josh Davis.
Northeast was forced to punt four plays later, but the Panthers blocked it, earning the ball back on the Trojan 26. On the first snap, DeQuan Stanley took over a quarterback and ran a keeper play for a touchdown, 42-0 with 9:09 left in the third.
The Trojans got on the board on the following kick off, when Stevie Sanders caught the ball in the middle of the field on the goal line, cut to the left sideline and went coast-to-coast for a score, 42-7.
The Panthers added a final field goal from Dalton Smith to cap the game at 45-7 with 4:00 left in the third quarter.