Pearl stuns Warren Central with comeback, late TD

Published 3:41 am Saturday, August 25, 2018

On one side, it was a memorable comeback for the ages. On the other, it was a frustrating loss in a game that seemed well in hand.

It only took one look at the reactions from Pearl and Warren Central’s players when the clock hit zero to tell which side was which.

Kenyatta Harrell scored on a 4-yard run with 28 seconds left — following a bad punt snap with under a minute to go that gave Pearl the ball inside the 25-yard line — and the Pirates rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Warren Central 17-14 on Friday night.

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“We just made a couple of plays at crucial times when we had to do it. We got out-yardaged, we got out-everything,” Pearl coach John Perry said. “They say four or five plays make a difference in a game, and we made those four or five plays. Hats off to our kids for never quitting and fighting as hard as they did to stay in the ballgame.”

Pearl (2-0), the defending Class 6A champion, won its 17th consecutive game despite finishing with 175 yards of total offense. Warren Central committed 12 penalties for 97 yards, had two touchdowns negated by penalties, lost two fumbles, and didn’t score after the opening minute of the second quarter.
The Vikings (0-1) had a chance to tie it on the final play of the game, but a 52-yard field goal attempt by John William Madison was well short.

“We did not finish well. We did not put them away,” Warren Central coach Josh Morgan said. “We allowed them to stay in the game and they made a play at the end. That’s on us. We’ve got to be better at doing that. We could have won it, but we lost it. And the reason we lost it is because we didn’t win it.”

For a while, it looked like Warren Central would not only win, but win big. Antonio Thompson threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Corey Wilson on the game’s opening series, and Jerrious Stovall punched in a 1-yard run with 11:25 left in the second quarter to give the Vikings a 14-0 lead.

Pearl went three-and-out on its next series, and P.J. Mims returned the punt 56 yards for a touchdown that was wiped off the board by an illegal block.

Warren Central never seemed to regain its momentum after that. The Vikings gained 120 yards and scored on their first two drives, and then had 177 yards and didn’t get inside Pearl’s 30-yard line the rest of the game.

“Offensively, we were not moving the ball. And it seemed like defensively we couldn’t get off the field. Whether it was a play being made on third down, we didn’t do a good job getting off the field,” Morgan said.

Meanwhile, Pearl took advantage of the lull and a series of mistakes to get back in the game.

Stovall fumbled late in the second quarter to set up a short scoring drive for Pearl, capped by Harrell’s 5-yard run with 2:38 to go. On the final play of the third quarter, receiver Jay Ward won a jump ball with a WC defender for a 41-yard gain that set up a 35-yard field goal from Caden Davis that cut it to 14-10.

And, finally, a special teams miscue at the end proved costly. WC punter Hank Holdiness was unable to handle a low snap with a minute to play. He fell on the ball, but set Pearl up at the 23-yard line.
A questionable pass interference call on third-and-10 from the 11-yard line gave the Pirates a much-needed first down. Harrell, lined up in the wildcat formation, took a direct snap and bounced it off the right side for a 4-yard touchdown on the next play. Davis’ PAT made it 17-14 with 28 seconds left.

“They had been running down the middle all game. Once we squeezed, they bounced it out,” Warren Central safety Lamar Gray said of the touchdown.

Warren Central did give itself a chance to tie the game. Shane Lewis completed three of four passes on a quick drive that moved the ball from the WC 20-yard line to Pearl’s 35. With only five seconds left on the clock, however, there was little choice but to bring out Madison for a desperation field goal.
Madison got the kick off against no rush, but it barely reached the goal line.

“We lost the momentum in the second quarter,” Morgan said. “We just couldn’t sustain and finish drives and make that explosive play to take over. We let them hang around and beat us.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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