North Forrest hung tough with Collins in Friday’s first half, but in the end, the Tigers displayed the dominance most expected coming into the team’s Region 8-2A opener. Collins took a 20-13 lead into halftime and went on to outscore North Forrest, 22-6, in the second half, snapping the Eagles’ four-game win streak, 42-19.
The Tigers extended their win streak to five games and improved to 6-1 overall and 1-0 in Region 8-2A.
“It wasn’t a bad way [to start district play],” said Collins coach Eric Booth. “I knew [North Forrest] coach [Anthony] Dillon was gonna throw a lot at us on offense and defense.”
To watch Collins head coach Eric Booth’s full postgame interview, click on the following link: https://youtu.be/dYQfQOkizlE
Dillon and the Eagles did just that, especially in the first half. After Collins quarterback Hershey McLaurin hooked up with Zyrion Thompson for a 20-yard Tiger touchdown on the game’s first possession, North Forrest drove the length of the field only to miss on a field goal. At the end of the first quarter, Collins led 7-0.
The Tigers made it 14-0 midway through the second with a 98-yard touchdown drive, which was capped off with a 1-yard quarterback sneak from McLaurin. The Eagles got the ball back and responded with their first score of the night, as Tyrell Pollard hit Eric Robinson for a North Forrest touchdown.
The teams exchanged scores right before halftime. McLaurin added touchdown No. 3 with a pass to Cyril Graves, and North Forrest’s Tra’Jen Anderson scored on a run to right side in the final seconds of the first half. With a couple of missed extra points, Collins took a 20-13 lead into the intermission.
The first half was competitive, but Collins cranked it up a notch in the second.
“I went in there [at halftime] and told my kids that if we didn’t pick it up, we would be in for a dogfight,” said Booth. “I know we had more kids than they did. I looked over there, and their kids kept on getting tired. So I told my offense to try to speed it up some and keep the ball going.”
The Tigers and specifically Markel McLaurin benefited well from that strategy. With his success in the first half, Zyrion Thompson was being boxed in most of the second, according to Booth. So the focus shifted on getting the ball to McLaurin—the team’s leading receiver through six games.
Facing a 4th and long in North Forrest territory with 6:29 left in the third quarter, Hershey McLaurin connected with Markel McLaurin for another Collins touchdown. On North Forrest’s ensuing possession, Markel McLaurin picked off an Eagle pass and returned it for yet another score. He had no plans of being caught.
“Nobody was gonna stop me,” said Markel McLaurin. “I had open field, and I knew my boys was going to block for me. I was gone.”
The score put Collins up 33-13 with 3:49 left in the third quarter. Twelve seconds later, McLaurin added interception No. 2 on the night.
“Wherever I put him on offense or defense, he [Markel McLaurin] is going to give me everything he got,” said Booth. “Like tonight, he cramped up and everything, but he kept on playing through it. I always tell him, ‘Put fluid in your body, son, because you the man. When I need a big play, I’m going to you, so you gotta make the plays for me’.”
Late in the third quarter, North Forrest added their final touchdown of the night, as Leon Jones connected with Eric Robinson for a 47-yard score.
In the fourth, Hershey McLaurin added another rushing touchdown for Collins, and Akeem McNair connected on a field goal for the Tigers, who went on to win, 42-19.
“We played better in the second half,” said Booth. “We made some big plays. The offensive line blocked good. The running backs ran the ball good. And we caught the ball good. I think we did better in the second half. We had to get our mind right.”
Collins (6-1) will host Richton (5-2) next Friday night, while North Forrest (4-4) hopes to bounce back at home against East Marion (3-4).