Port Gibson’s magical run comes to an end

Published 12:32 am Saturday, November 18, 2017

PORT GIBSON — The dream season for the Port Gibson Blue Waves came to an end Friday night when they were eliminated from the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs by Jefferson Davis County, 42-13.

After winning a combined seven games in the last four seasons, the Blue Waves (9-4) won nine games this year and finished second in Region 3-7A.

“Like a dream, really like a movie,” Port Gibson coach Harry Brown said of his team’s season. “We had different characters every week like a little series. Our kids got better and they came together as a group. I was just so proud of that group.”

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Jefferson Davis County (13-1) advanced to the South State championship game next week against Hazlehurst (11-2). Jefferson Davis County is in its first year of existence after Class 2A powerhouse Bassfield and Prentiss High School consolidated. Bassfield won four consecutive state championships from 2012-15 and Prentiss was a playoff regular.

Yazoo County and North Panola will play for the North State championship, and the winners will meet in the Class 3A title game Dec. 2 at Ole Miss’ Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.

After defeating Southeast Lauderdale and Seminary in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Friday’s game marked the first time since 1988 that Port Gibson has advanced to the third round. It’s the farthest the program has ever advanced.

This was Port Gibson’s first winning season since 2012, its first nine-win season since 1991, and only its fourth winning season this century. Port Gibson, in fact had only had 33 winning seasons in its 75-year history. It finished 3-7 last season.

“Words can’t really describe how I feel tonight,” Brown said. “Last year, we turned the corner. I had a good group last year, but it was my first year here. The only thing we did was keep the same momentum going into this season. We have a lot of speed to build on.”

Hosting only their second playoff game since 1990, with the other being the first-round matchup against Southeast Lauderdale, the Blue Wave players were treated to a packed house that stayed full throughout the game despite the lopsided score.

“Everything,” Brown said of what the season meant to the school. “We’ve been down so long and the town was just hungry for a winner. I think that’s the hurting part about it because we wanted to give everything to them this year.”

The Blue Waves battled the Jaguars to a 7-7 draw in the first half, but Jefferson Davis was able to pull away in the second half using a dominating rushing attack.

Jefferson Davis opened up the second half by marching 85 yards in seven plays, retaking the lead on an 18-yard touchdown run by Jafharis McKines, his second of four touchdowns on the night.
From there the Jaguars were off and running as they added four more touchdowns in the half without throwing a single pass.

McKines led the way with four touchdowns and 161 yards on 16 carries.

“I saw a lot of heart early, I guess the water just got a little deep for us tonight,” Brown said. “We found out the hard way what championship football is about. I was real proud of how they fought, but things got just a little rough at the end.”

The Jaguars scored on their first drive of the game after Port Gibson stalled at the end of a more than five-minute possession consisting of 11 plays.

The Blue Waves forced a punt and two fumbles on the Jaguars’ next three possessions to keep the game close.

Port Gibson’s lone touchdown drive of the night started with 7:46 remaining in the second quarter after Jefferson Davis fumbled at the Port Gibson 23-yard line.

The drive started poorly as two negative runs and two false start penalties backed them up to their own 7-yard line. Facing a third-and-26, quarterback D’Marious Hicks found space and raced 45 yards for a first down.

He followed up his big run with completions of 11 and 16 yards to Jacory Rankin before capping the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown run that tied the game.

Trailing 42-7 with just over five minutes left in the game, the Blue Waves added their second touchdown of the game on a kickoff return by Rankin. He found a hole down the right sideline and raced untouched for the score. From there the Jaguars ran out the clock.

“(Hicks) and Rankin are two awesome athletes,” Brown said. “I am going to hate to lose Jacory. He and Hicks made a dynamic duo.”