When Chad Locklear snagged the onside kick out of the air in Laurel territory with less than two minutes to play Friday night, South Jones’ faithful were believing.
The trickery led to a Mark Diers’ field goal and a 17-14 Braves’ halftime lead.
But the homecoming party would be short-lived on The Reservation as Laurel outscored South Jones 28-3 in the second half to win 42-20.
“We were the best team tonight, but we just didn’t finish,” first-year SJ coach Roger Satcher said.
South Jones held Laurel without an offensive touch- down in the first half. Levi Walker kept the Naders in the game with a 98-yard kickoff return and a 46-yard interception return, but LHS was still trailing its county rivals at the break.
Laurel coach Todd Breland summed up his team’s second-half surge with one word: Pride.
“I couldn’t count the mistakes we made in the first half,” said Breland, whose team entered the game on a three-game losing streak. “It’s been a long few weeks and when you come out and play the way we did in the first half, you remember the last few weeks.
“What we found out is we have a group of kids that will come out and fight.”
Laurel opened the second half with a four-play, 80- yard scoring drive that culminated in with a Zias Perry-man 12-yard TD run and a 20-17 Laurel lead.
On South’s next posses- sion, Brandon Gavin in- tercepted a John Mitchell pass and returned it to the Braves’ 13-yard line. Two plays later, Terrell raced in for a 9-yard TD run and a 27-17 lead.
Amir Smith scored on a 50-yard run and Bryce Page hauled in a 31-yard scoring pass from Sinclair Ulmer in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.
Ulmer completed 5 of 13 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Smith ran for 70 yards on three carries as the Braves’ defense bottled up Laurel’s potent running game for most of the night. Mitchell ran for two touchdowns to lead South Jones in the first half. Diers connected on both extra points and kicked field goals of 18 and 30 yards.
Laurel is scheduled to host Ole Brook on Friday night in a battle between two of the favorites to win Region 3-5A.
South Jones will travel to Jackson to face Forest Hill.
Laurel also has a leg up in the Leader-Call’s Battle for the Belt with a 1-0 record along with West Jones. South Jones is 1-1 and will need West to beat Laurel to have a shot at the belt. Lau- rel won the belt the first four years of its existence. West Jones won it last year. The belt is awarded to the Jones County football champion.