Laurel's Kiron Benjamin fights his way up field for extra yards. (Photo by Mark Thornton)


PETAL — The good news for Laurel was that it outscored 6A powerhouse Petal in the second half. The bad news was that the Panthers scored four unanswered touchdowns in the first half and won 38-12.

It was the second straight loss in Forrest County for the Tornadoes, who fell to rival Hattiesburg 26-12 in the season-opener.

“Nobody wants to be 0-2,” first-year Laurel head coach Ryan Earnest said, “but this is going to make us better down the road. That’s why we schedule the way we do.”

Junior running back Kiron Benjamin scored two third-quarter touchdowns, but those were all the points the Tornadoes could manage.

The Panthers pounced early and often to take a 28-0 lead into the locker room. Jackson Allen was 12-of-21 for 234 yards and two touchdowns and Jonathan Harris had four catches for 119 yards to lead the home team.

“We started fast, came out ready to play,” said Petal coach Marcus Boyles, whose squad finished 12-2 last season. “The defense had a really good night.”

The Panthers held Laurel to 17 passing yards and picked off a pair of passes to set up scores. 

Benjamin was a bright spot for the Tornadoes, who managed 158 rushing yards. He finished off the opening drive of the second half with a 10-yard scoring run, then closed the quarter by punching one in from 2 yards out.

“Ryan’s going to get things going,” Boyles said. “He’s got some banged up. When you’re missing a D-I guy, it’s tough.”

Receiver Kanarius Johnson, a Tulane commit, sat out after being injured in the opening minutes of the Hattiesburg game and Xavier Evans was also sidelined. 

The injuries are a factor, Earnest said, but he wants to see his team execute better.

“We played better in the second half, and I’m pleased with the effort both weeks,” he said. “We’re giving everything we’ve got … when we get everyone healed up, we’ll be fine.”

The Tornadoes will play their first home game of 2020 at 7 p.m. Friday when they host Wayne County.

“It will be a blessing to be back Between the Bricks,” Earnest said.

Petal will host West Jones on Friday night.


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