Nolan's FG lifts Hancock to historic 18-15 victory
By Dwayne Bremer
Nov 4, 2017, 00:13
Marquis Cherry helps lead the Hancock Hawks to an 18-15 victory Friday night over the Pascagoula Panthers.
Elliot Nolan booted a 23-yard field goal at the final gun Friday to lift the Hancock Hawks to an 18-15 victory over the Pascagoula Panthers at War Memorial Stadium.
With the win, the Hawks improved to 9-2 on the season as they prepare to host the Brandon Bulldogs next week in the first round of the MHSAA playoffs.
"We overcame a lot of adversity tonight, but we got it done," Hawks Head Coach Neil Lollar said. "Pascagoula played their hearts out. Coach Sims did a great job having them prepared for us."
The Panthers saw their season end Friday with a disappointing 3-8 record, but Panther Head Coach Lewis Sims said his team's effort Friday will be a huge plus heading into next season.
"I could not be more proud of the passion, desire, and toughness these guys showed tonight," Sims said. "Our seniors can leave with their heads high. It came down to the final play again for us. Hancock just made one more play than we did."
Pascagoula challenged Hancock all evening, beginning with the first play when Breland WIlliams intercepted a pass and returned it to the Hawks’ 30.
Hancock's defense forced a punt, but Adam Penny pinned the Hawks deep at the two.
Field position was a key factor for the Panthers throughout the evening.
Penny booted three punts inside the Hawks’ five on the evening and booted another one 56 yards.
The game remained scoreless until late in the second quarter when the Hawks took advantage of an interception by Austin Briley.
Seven plays after the pick, Marquis Cherry bowled over a defender into the endzone from a yard out at the 1:52 mark of the second quarter.
Nolan added the point-after to give the Hawks a 7-0 lead. Hancock's defense forced a three-and-out to start the third quarter, but Penny once again put Hancock into a hole, punting it inside the two.
Two plays later, Jared Johnson sacked Caleb Gacia in the end zone for a safety.
After another three-and-out, the Panthers called on Penny again, and this time, he punted the ball to the Hawk five.
Once again, the Panthers defense took advantage, as a bad handoff exchange was recovered by Pascagoula at the 11.
Three plays later, Penny hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jonas Burley to give the Panthers their first lead of the game, 8-7, with 4:49 to play in the third. The point-after failed.
Hancock answered with a seven play, 55-yard drive to reclaim the lead. Cherry carried the ball all seven plays, scoring on another one-yard plunge. He added a two-point conversion to give Hancock a 15-8 lead with 1:55 to play in the period.
Cherry led all rushers in the game with 130 yards on 23 carries. Rondell Womack added 81 yards on 15 carries.
"We never really got our offense clicking tonight," Lollar said. "We made some plays when we had to. Marquis had a great evening."
The Panthers answered Hancock's score with an epic 15-play march to tie the game.Dalvin Abney carried the ball 13 times on the march for 65 yards, including two fourth-down conversions. He finished the game with 128 yards on 26 carries. Quarterback Jonas Burley scored from a yard out. The point-after tied the game at 15-15 with 5:53 to play.
Hancock took over at the 14 after the kickoff, but two penalties backed them up to the five.
Facing a critical third-and-19, Garcia launched a pass down the sideline for Anthony Jones, who hauled it in for a huge 52-yard gain.
"I had a step and I saw it coming in slow motion," Jones said. "I just wanted to make sure I caught it. It was a great feeling to lift up my teammates."
A 19-yard run by Womack gave the Hawks another first down inside the Panther 30.
The Panthers would stop the Hawks at the six, but they exhausted all of their timeouts.
Hancock called a timeout with two seconds to play and called on Nolan.
Brooks Rayburn took the snap and placed the ball down with no problem as Nolan booted it through from 23 yards to win the game 18-15.
"It was just another kick," Nolan said. "I've practiced it 1,000 times. It is pretty cool to actually be in that situation to win a game. The line blocked well and Brooks put it down. All I had to do was boot it through."
The win gives the Hawks their first nine-win season since 2001. The Panthers finished 3-8.