Hancock shocks the state, beats Brandon 30-27 in playoffs
By Dwayne Bremer
Nov 11, 2017, 00:27
Hancock's Devin Ladner gets congratulatory hug after the Hawks' thrilling 30-27 playoff win over Brandon.
It was only one game, but it produced a lifetime of memories for the team, coaches, faculty, student body and fans of Hancock High School.
The Hawks hosted their first playoff game in 27 years Friday when traditional state power Brandon traveled to Kiln.
Almost nobody outside of Kiln gave the Hawks a chance of beating Brandon, but when Caleb Garcia connected with Brooks Rayburn for a six-yard touchdown with 50 seconds remaining to give the Hawks a 30-27 lead, the energy released in Brett Favre Field was not only sheer joy, but a loud and emphatic statement:
Hancock is back!
"This win is absolutely huge for this school and community," Head Coach Neil Lollar said afterwards. "It's also huge for our district. I had several coaches calling and texting me this week, and telling me they were rooting for us. This team has overcome so much. Their heart and determination should be admired."
From the first play of the game, the Hawks set a physical tone.
Marquis Cherry plowed up the middle for 15 yards and a first down. Running behind the Hawk offensive line "The Trench Dogs," Cherry rushed for 157 yard on the evening on a career-high 33 carries. Rondell Womack added 93 yards on 15 carries. Both Cherry and Womack eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing on the season on Friday. Overall, Hancock rushed for 268 yards on 50 carries.
The Hawks moved the ball deep into Bulldog opening drive, but the drive ended without points, as Elliot Nolan missed a 43-yard field goal.
After a three-and-out, the Hawks' offense went to work again. Cherry and Womack picked up first downs, and Garcia then connected with Rayburn for the pair's first score of the game on a 41-yard touchdown strike.
Nolan added the point-after, giving the Hawks a 7-0 lead with 2:11 to play in the first quarter.
Hancock extended its lead on the next play from scrimmage.
Bulldog quarterback Will Rogers' pass for Bo Whatley was bobbled, and it sprung right into the waiting arms of Michael Durr, who plucked the ball out of the air and returned it 27 yards for a Pick-Six.
"The ball was just suspending in the air," Durr said. "I was telling myself, 'you gotta go get it.' It fell to me and I was all alone. I just ran towards the goal line."
Nolan's point-after gave Hancock a 14-0 lead.
Brandon answered early in the second quarter when Rogers connected with Reed Tyler for a 12-yard scoring strike. The point-after was no good.
Later in the second quarter, Nolan booted a 40-yard field goal to push the Hawks' lead to 17-6.
Brandon's next drive ended when Durr intercepted his second pass of the game with just two minutes to play before halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Hancock's Brodie Fitts collected the Hawks' third interception of the game, and a 39-yard return gave the Hawks great field position at the Bulldog 44.
Two plays later, Garcia hooked up with Rayburn again, this time for 40 yards and a first down at the four.
Cherry scored two plays later and Elliot's point-after gave the Hawks a 24-6 lead.
Brandon then began a furious comeback, which saw them score 21 unanswered points.
Javarius Spann got things going with a 66-yard touchdown run at the 7:36 mark of the third quarter.
Spann led all rushers in the game with 182 yards on 20 carries.
Spann scored his second touchdown of the game with less than a minute to play in the third quarter on a one-yard run. The point-after was missed, but the Hawks lead had been cut to 24-19.
Brandon's defense stopped the Hawks on a fourth-and-one on their next drive.
The Bulldogs then drove 56 yards in 13 plays to take the lead on another one-yard run by Spann. Rogers tossed a two-point conversion pass to Matt Stowers, and with just 4:40 to play, Brandon had come all the way back to take a 27-24 lead.
After the kickoff, the Hawks quickly were faced with a fourth-and-two at the 28, with less than three minutes to play. Lollar decided to go for it, with a little help from Cherry.
"Marquis was demanding the ball," Lollar said. "He was adamant. He wanted to make a play."
On the play, Cherry picked up 11 yards and a critical first down to the 39.
Two plays later, Garcia lofted a perfect pass down the left sideline that Rayburn caught in stride. Rayburn then carried a defender all the way to the nine, for 49 yards and a first-and-goal.
Three plays later, the Hawks were faced with a third-and-goal at the six.
Once again, Garcia and Rayburn made a big play.
Garcia rolled left on a play called "Smoke." He then rifled a pass to Rayburn, who caught it a yard deep in the endzone for the touchdown.
"We have a lot of confidence in that play," Lollar said. "Caleb and Brooks were locked in all night."
Rayburn caught five passes for 142 yards on the night. Garcia completed eight of nine passes for 181 yards in the game.
The point-after was no good, but the Hawks had reclaimed the lead 30-27.
Brandon took over at the 35 after the kickoff.
After a first-down pass to the 39, a holding call pushed them back ten yards. On a third-down play, Hancock's Chase McDonald forced Rogers out of bound for a sack and loss of ten yards.
A final desperation pass by Rogers was batted down by Durr.
As the final second ticked off the clock, students, parents, and alumni poured onto the field as the song "All I Do is Win" blared over the loud speakers.
Durr, who was beaten out by Garcia for the starting job in pre-season, said the win shows the perseverance and determination the team has.
"I just wanted to be able to play and make a difference," Durr said. "This is the greatest feeling. We did it as a team."
The Hawks will travel to Pearl next week in the second round of the playoffs.
Should the Hawks win, they would host the South State Championshio at Brett Favre Field on Nov. 24.