Hattiesburg finished with a bang to beat Laurel for the fifth straight time in the Lil’ Brown Jug Game, 41-20, on Saturday night at D.I. Patrick Stadium.
Quarterback Jarod Conner ran for four scores, but it was a 68-yard kickoff return by Jairus McFarland — after the Tornadoes closed within eight points midway through the fourth quarter — that slammed the door on their comeback hopes.
Shortly after that, a slammed door under the Hattiesburg bleachers caused the players, cheerleaders, bands and many fans to evacuate the stadium. It sounded like a gunshot, witnesses said, and it caused people in the standing-room-only stadium to take off.
After a delay of about 15 minutes, the players came back on the field, warmed up again, then finished the game. Conner, who has committed to Memphis, punctuated the victory with a 19-yard scoring run to finish with 218 rushing yards.
“It’s hard to get your juice back after something like that,” Laurel coach Todd Breland said of the unexpected delay.
His squad had plenty of juice early. Quarterback Sinclair Ulmer scored for 27 yards out late in the first quarter to give his team the lead, but Conner answered two minutes later with a 76-yard scoring scamper to tie it.
An interception set up the Tigers’ go-ahead score, a 10-yard run by Drexlan Allen, early in the second quarter then a fumble on Laurel’s first play of the second half set up Conner’s 1-yard TD early in the third quarter.
“You can’t give a team like that a 30-yard field and survive,” Breland said.
But the Naders battled back. Zias Perryman punched one in from a yard out on fourth-and-goal to make it an eight-point game, 21-13, late in the third quarter.
Once again, Conner answered, scoring from 3 yards out to cap a 14-play drive early in the fourth.
The ’Naders came storming back again, with Michael Terrell dashing in from 16 yards to make it a 28-20 game with 7:55 remaining. But that’s when McFarland took the air out of the Tornadoes when he snatched the short kick out of the air and sprinted up the Laurel sideline for the score.
After that, Ulmer was sacked on fourth-and-13 to turn it over on downs, and after the delay, Conner made the final score.
“The effort was great,” Breland said. “We can fix everything else.”
It was the Tigers’ fifth straight Jug win, the longest running high school rivalry in the state, at 97 years. The Tornadoes still lead the series, 48-44-5.
Laurel (1-1) will host Oak Grove on Friday night and Hattiesburg (2-0) travels to Moss Point.