After a heartbreaking loss to region rival Natchez on The Reservation, South Jones coach Roger Satcher stood before his downtrodden players and said, “This one’s on me. I let you down.”
The Braves (4-4, 1-2 region) lost a two-touchdown lead in the final three minutes after the Bulldogs took two turnovers and turned them into 15 points for a stunning 27-24 win.
“Everybody who was here knows which team has the most talent and which team has the most heart,” Satcher said, pointing out the size and speed of the Bulldogs (5-2, 2-1), “but I’d take mine over theirs any day.”
Paul Hargrave threw a 16-yard scoring pass to a stretched out James Singleton in the back corner of the end zone for the game-winner on fourth-and-2 with 34 seconds left. Hargrave hit Cornelius Bailey from 12 yards out, then found Myzell Myles for a two-point play to pull within 24-20 with 2:59 remaining. Before those two scores, Bulldog receivers had dropped at least three sure TDs. Hargrave was 12–of-30 for 171 yards and 5-foot-7, 203-pound running back Javontae Davis had 142 yards a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries.
South Jones quarterback John Mitchell ran for 130 yards and two TDs on 26 carries and Vekelion Campbell had 104 yards and a score on 16 carries.
The Braves recovered a pair of onside kicks that led to scores, but it was a miscue in the kicking game that led to South’s downward spiral and the Natchez scoring spirals.
The Braves were punting out of their own end zone on fourth-and-20 with a 24-12 lead. But there was some confusion, and the punter ran out of the back of the end zone to the 8-yard line. Satcher intended for the punter to take the snap and step out of the back of the end zone for a safety. But his instructions were to “run out of bounds,” coaches on the sidelines were heard saying.
The Braves were still leading by four points with less than three minutes to go, but on second-and-23, they fumbled and Natchez linebacker Devonta Stancel came up with the loose ball at the SJ 41-yard line with 1:26 remaining. Five plays later, the Bulldogs got the game-winner.
“My job is to have them prepared, and I didn’t do that,” said Satcher, in his first season as head coach. “This one doesn’t matter any more, only the next one does.”
Natchez struck first with Javontae Davis’ 2-yard run late in the first quarter.
SJ kicker Mark Diers booted a 36-yard field goal to make it a 6-3 game with 7:22 left in the half. Then, after recovering an onside kick, Mitchell scored on a 15-yard run two minutes later and Diers gave the Braves a 10-6 lead at the half.
The Braves opened the third quarter by recovering an onside kick to set up Campbell’s 3-yard scoring run and Diers made it 17-6 Braves.
Davis answered midway through the quarter with a 21-yard scoring scramble to pull Natchez within 17-12 going into the final quarter.
Mitchell gave the home team some breathing room — or so it appeared — with a 3-yard TD run three minutes into the fourth. The SJ defense then made a huge defensive stand, stopping the Bulldogs after they had first-and-goal from the 7, but kept backing up on big plays and penalties.
Then the Braves’ offense stalled deep in their own territory to set of the Bulldogs’ comeback.
“Defensively, we buckled won and made plays when we had to,” Natchez coach Roy Rigsby said. “They never gave up. They believed in each other.”
South Jones will be at North Pike and Natchez will host Ole Brook next Friday.