Breland not worried after first shutout since 2012
PETAL — Laurel’s offense did something that’s happened only one other time this decade — it laid an egg.
The Tornadoes were shut out for the first time in more than six years Friday night as Petal performed like anything but a team that was picking up its first win of the season. A pair of Panther running backs each had more rushing yards at the end of the half than Laurel had as a team for the entire game as they led the 6A squad to a 27-0 win.
“Tonight, we got outcoached, we got outplayed … their food was probably better than ours,” Laurel head coach Todd Breland said. “We didn’t do anything good tonight.”
The 1-2 punch of junior running backs Micah McGowan and Rashad Handford was too much for the Tornadoes. McGowan was the workhorse — carrying the ball 30 times for 196 yards (116 in the first half) and one TD — and Handford was the racehorse — with 18 carries for 232 yards (124 in the first half) and three TDs.
“We put the defense on the field all night,” Breland said, “and they got us some opportunities, but we did not capitalize.”
The Tornadoes’ talented tandem of Zias Perryman (11 carries, 54 yards) and Michael Terrell (7 carries, 21 yards) were held to 75 yards and Amir Smith had five runs for 36 yards — including a 24-yarder against reserves on the next-to-last play of the game — to push the team over 100 yards for the game. Quarterback Sinclair Ulmer was 5-of-13 for 34 yards and two interceptions and he had two runs for 2 yards.
“Our defense played lights-out,” Petal coach Marcus Boyles said. “(McGowan and Handford) have been playing well all year, we’ve just gotten behind and had to throw the ball a little more than we want to. Our O-line and tight end did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Both teams are now 1-3 after opening the season against tough competition.
The Tornadoes made some breaks for themselves Friday night, but each time, a bad break followed.
Keno Shelby picked off a Decarlos Nicholson pass that was deflected by Jerome Caldwell on Petal’s second series of the game. But two plays later, Michael Windham picked off Ulmer on a deep throw that was tipped by intended receiver Levi Walker.
The Panthers then marched 75 yards in 13 plays, with McGowan scoring from a yard out. After forcing a three-and-out and punt on the next series, Petal started on its on 21. Handford took the handoff and sprinted 79 yards to paydirt on the next play and the home team led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
On Petal’s next drive, Rashad Love recovered a fumble for the Tornadoes, but four plays later, Luther Woullard reached back and snagged an Ulmer pass at midfield to set up Handford’s 9-yard scoring run and a 20-0 lead with a little more than a minute to go in the half.
The teams traded punts on their first series of the second half, and Perryman recovered a fumble on Petal’s second series. But the Tornadoes were pushed back into a fourth-and-long and had to punt again. Handford added a 72-yard scoring run on the first play of the fourth quarter and Jackson Bowering added his third PAT of the night for the final score.
“One thing we have done and will continue to do is play with effort,” Breland said.
And after falling to 6A powerhouses Hattiesburg, Oak Grove and Petal, he believes things will start falling into place when they begin Region 3-5A play on Sept. 21.
“We’ve both been through the same things this season,” Breland said of Boyles, who he coached with at Wayne County. “We just have to get over it and get ready for region play.”
Something that will help, he said, is the return of receivers Xavier Evans and Jontarius Henderson.
“We’re about to have those guys back healthy,” Breland said. “Without them, people are loading up on us and taking away (the running game).”
The Tornadoes will be at The Reservation for what will be the region opener for both teams and Petal will go to defending state champion Pearl on Sept. 21 for its region opener.
“We’d both love to be 4-0 right now, but we’re 1-3 and we’ll learn from it,” Boyles said as he and Breland met at midfield. “The first four get you ready for district play. It starts all over now.”
The last time Laurel was shut out was also in Forrest County — a 38-0 hammering at Hattiesburg on Aug. 24, 2012, Breland’s first season.