Petal’s performance Thursday night against Terry capped off a perfect four-game stretch for the Panthers, who started the season icy cold and now enter the Class 6A playoffs red hot. Led by junior quarterback DeCarlos Nicholson, Petal throttled Terry, 42-7, at Panther Stadium and extended their win streak to four games heading into the postseason.
After a loss to Brandon a month ago, the Panthers found themselves at 1-6 overall and 0-3 in Region 3-6A play. To 100 percent ensure they made the postseason for an 11th consecutive season, Petal needed to win their final four games. Though the team actually clinched their berth last week after win No. 3, the Panthers held up their end of the bargain Thursday with a strong sprint to the regular season finish line.
“We’ve been a roll and been playing really well,” Petal coach Marcus Boyles said. “I thought last week offensively we didn’t play very good the first half [against George County], so we challenged them [tonight]. I thought tonight offensively we came out and played really good.”
It started with Nicholson, who tossed three touchdowns in the first half alone, as Petal took a 28-0 lead into the intermission. Boyles says the strides the first-year quarterback has made from week one to now are evident.
“He [Nicholson] has been playing really well for us lately,” Boyles said. “When you look at him, he’s a new starter at a critical position and crucial position for us. You go back to the Hattiesburg game, and he wouldn’t throw an RPO, and he wouldn’t pull it and run it. Tonight he’s doing all of that, so I’m just really proud of that young man.
“Because of his progression as a quarterback, I think you see our offense really has gotten better each week.”
Nicholson hit Trent Williams for two scores (40 yards and 27 yards) and Zy Magee (33 yards) for the other. Junior running back Micah McGowan rounded out the rest of the first half scoring for Petal with a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
The Panthers added two more rushing touchdowns in the second half, as both J’lin Jones and Semaj Silas found the end zone to put Petal up 42-0 in the third quarter.
Defensively, Petal kept Terry’s offense off the board up until the two-minute mark of the fourth.
“The defense has been playing lights out for about three or four games now, so I’m really proud of that group,” Boyles said.
Petal improved to 4-6 overall with the win, and the Panthers will open the Class 6A playoffs next Friday at Gulfport. It will be the second time this season the two teams have faced one another. The Admirals (9-1) won the first matchup back in week two, 33-28.
“We’re gonna face a really good Gulfport team that’s probably gonna be 10-1 when we go down there, so they’re on a roll also,” Boyles said. “We played them earlier in the year, and they beat us by five [points] down there. Both of us have gotten better I’m sure, so I think it’s gonna be a great matchup. They do a great job at Gulfport.”