By Heath Walley
Things were in question for an offensively potent Bay Springs team that was going blow-for-blow in a defensive battle Friday night that left the Richton Rebels only trailing the Bulldogs 14-8 at the half during the MHSAA 2A South quarterfinals in Richton. But, the Bulldogs had the answer in the second half, completely shut the door on the Rebels, and went on to a 28-8 victory.
Bay Springs running back Anson Windham raced 43 yards for his third touchdown of the night to bump the score to 20-8 with 9:43 left in the third quarter. After that, the Bulldogs defense didn’t even let Richton sniff mid-field for the better part of the rest of the game.
“We talked to the linemen a little bit about being tough and physical in a game where you might be out-matched physically and technique has to come into play. Up front, we just told them to keep paving the way, and sooner or later something would open up, and it did,” Bay Springs head coach Dan Brady said of the halftime discussion with his team. “We just challenged the guys to play the brand of football that they have had success with.”
The Bulldogs touched the scoreboard first after Derrien Lee picked off a long, Dylan Farve pass on the first offensive play of the game at the Bay Springs 28-yard line. Windham then cut through the Richton defense on a run to midfield, and Jamarius Hosey later rambled 30 yards to the Rebels’ 1-yard line. Windham capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, and the Bulldogs led 6-0 with 7:31 left in the first quarter.
Richton countered quickly, but it would be the Rebels’ only score of the night. Z. Mitchell ran for 24 yards, and D. Griffin later scampered to the Bulldogs’1-yard line before finishing the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. After Bay Springs got a jump start on the extra point attempt and was penalized, the Rebels elected to go for a 2-point conversion, were successful, and took an 8-6 lead with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
Windham kept the Bulldogs alive on its next possession when he turned a short fourth down conversion into big yards. He later earned his second touchdown of the night on a 22-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Adrian Cole then hit Jakhorey Page on a 2-point conversion pass to lift the Bulldogs into the lead, 14-8, with 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Bay Springs had an opportunity to extend its lead early in the second quarter when Dallen Jones recovered a Richton fumble at the Rebels’ 31-yard line. But, the Richton defense shut down the Bulldogs on a fourth-and-goal play at the 10-yard line. Both defenses stiffened through the rest of the second quarter, forcing punts, and Bay Springs’ Peyton Pickens closed the half with a sack when Richton was driving at the Bulldogs’ 35-yard line.
Windham seemed to have closed the door on the Rebels with his 43-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter on the first possession of the half that extended the Bay Springs lead to 20-8. Bay Springs slammed the door on Richton defensively on the next possession, and eventually picked up his fourth touchdown run of the night on a 4-yard burst. He polished off that score with a 2-point conversion run to cushion Bay Springs’ lead, 28-8, late in the third quarter.
Both teams went back-and-forth with the football in the fourth quarter, and Lee finished things off for the Bulldogs with his third interception of the game to help close out the contest.
Bay Springs finished the night with 358 total yards. Windham led the Bulldogs offense with 20 carries for 176 yards and four TDs. Hosey ran 22 times for 123 yards, and Cole was 5-of-11 through the air for 60 yards. Jaccorio Ducksworth had a reception for 34 to lead the receiving group.
Fred Barnes and Jakharus Page led the Bay Springs defense with 7 solo tackles apiece. Peyton Pickens and Jakhorey Page both produced a sack for the Bulldogs.
Brady said that a lot of people didn’t think this Bay Springs team would go this far in the playoffs, but he knew his team had unfinished business on their minds. He is happy about the position his team has put themselves in next Friday night with the Bulldogs heading to its third 2A South State Championship game out of the last four years.
“I’m happy for these kids; I just drive the bus and get them to the game,” he said with a laugh. “I think it speaks a lot about the resiliency of these kids. Last year they were 8-6, and lost to Collins in the third round. We brought back a lot of kids. They just weren’t satisfied with the end result last season, and they went back to work.”
Bay Springs (11-3) will face the Taylorsville Tartars (14-0) on the road for the second time this season in the South State title game. The Tartars bested the Bulldogs 35-14 on September 27. Taylorsville edged Collins Friday night, 14-12, to advance.
“Taylorsville is a great football team, but we are going to work our tails off next week, and we are going to find a way. Coach [Mitch] Evans is going to do a great job with his [Taylorsville] team; we know that. We’ve just got to get better at what we do,” Brady said. “And, if I know my kids like I think I do, they are going to come in hungry and ready to work. We’ve got some stuff we definitely need to clean up, but I like where we are at, and I like that we’ve got a chance.”