Two Eric Walker touchdowns and a Tyrin Watts 23-yard touchdown catch had the Tigers up 21-0 early in the second quarter, but they wouldn’t find the end zone again and relied on a solid defensive effort to hang on for a 21-20 win.
The Rebels (1-4) scored two touchdowns before halftime and the Tigers (3-2) turned them away on three fourth-downs in the second half.
“We have some trouble playing between the 20’s I think, we cut some guys loose and miss some tackles,” MCHS coach Brandon Nowlin said. “But, when they want to bow up and they want to play assignment football, we’ve got some guys that can really do some things. That’s really what it came down to.”
After the kickoff in the third quarter, each of Pearl River’s drives started inside Morgan City territory, with two drives starting inside the MCHS 30.
Pearl River nearly tied the game on a 10-play drive of 49 yards with five minutes left in the game but the extra point was missed due to heavy pressure from the Tigers’ defense.
A short punt after Morgan City’s drive gave the Rebels a chance starting at the MCHS 29, but on fourth down the Tiger defense stopped Marquesho Odom for a two-yard loss with under a minute left in the game to secure the win.
“We want to be good, we play great in spurts, but we have these five minute lapses in our football games going back to the beginning of the season where we lose focus,” Nowlin said. “Things can unravel quick. They scored two touchdowns in the last six minutes of the half.”
The Tigers nearly took a 28-0 lead after the Rebels fumbled to set up a drive from the 38, but MCHS quarterback Hoang Nguyen was sacked twice and threw an incompletion resulting in a punt.
“When we have somebody up against the ropes like that and get a fumble on the 35 yard line to be able to go up 28-0, and don’t take advantage, it kind of unraveled from there,” Nowlin.
Walker ran the ball with the same physical style he has all season and had a game-high 133 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns. The sophomore had 93 yards in the first half alone and made several key tackles on defense.
The scoring drought in the second half won’t sit well with the Tigers, but the defense should build confidence after its performance in the second half.
“I was scared at first,” Walker said when the Rebels started coming back. “But our defense started shutting them down and I didn’t have any worries.”
Nowlin had high praise for his young running back.
“He’s a very tough-willed young man,” Nowlin said. “He’s the type of guy you want in the foxhole with you when you go into a street fight. He’s a guy we’ve been riding the last couple weeks as we try to get other guys healthy. He’s a guy we’re going to continue to lean on — he’s just a warrior out there. When it comes down to it, you want the ball in some of your best player’s hands — the guys you trust most. We have a lot of young players, he’s only a sophomore, but at the same time I trust that kid as much as anybody out there on our football team.”
The win gives Morgan City one more victory in five games than they achieved over 10 games last season.
“We got one more in the win column than we had last season, very early in the year,” Nowlin said. “But, if we don’t get a lot better, we’re not going to be able to win very many ball games. Especially offensively with what we showed in the second half. We’ve got to be a lot better and be able to execute better than we did.”
Morgan City will host Franklin on Friday in the last game before District 8-4A play begins.