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A final look at football in 2012

12:00 AM, Dec. 06, 2012 EST

They say people in the South can't ever get enough football, especially high school football.

So with that in mind, let's take one final look at what was a pretty exciting year for preps in the Pine Belt.

* Best game of the year: I saw three really close, thrilling games this season. One was Forrest Country AHS's 21-20 victory over Purvis, in which the Aggies stopped the Tornadoes on a 2-point conversion after a touchdown with seven seconds to play. Another was West Marion holding on to defeat Philadelphia 18-16 in the Class 3A playoffs.

But in terms of what was at stake, the background - with a crowd of nearly 10,000 and a regional television audience - and the way it ended, I'd have to say the best game I saw was Petal's 24-21 victory over Oak Grove.

* Most bizarre game of the year: This one is easy. In the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, many schools scrambled their schedules to get their games in when they could. One of them was Seminary at North Forrest, played on a blazing-hot Saturday afternoon, won by the Eagles 13-12.

* Best play of the year: Referring back to Petal's win over Oak Grove, it would be hard to beat Larson Barkurn's desperation heave on fourth-and-goal from the Warrior 20-yard-line that somehow ended up in the hands of JaMarcus Revies for the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute to play.

Trampled underfoot

* Most impressive team: With all due respect to Bassfield and its perfect season, the most impressive team I saw play this year was Picayune, when the Maroon Tide simply trampled Petal in the second game of the season.

Against one of the best teams in the state, Picayune ran for 504 yards and scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions in the second half to beat the Panthers 56-35.

* Best coaching job: Kudos to Walter Denton for bringing Columbia back from an 0-10 season to a 7-4 record and the second round of the Class 4A playoffs, but the Wildcats have had success through the years, winning 10 games as recently as 2008.

Richton, on the other hand, hadn't made the playoffs since 2003 and hadn't had a winning season since 1994. But Stephen Rice coached the Rebels to an 8-4 record and a playoff berth in Region 8-2A this year, and that trumps what Denton did at Columbia.

* Most electrifying player: I saw some talented players this year, but no one lit up a football field quite like Hattiesburg's Tony Bridges. This kid did everything for the Tigers, caught passes, ran the ball, played cornerback, returned kicks, and he did it with a joyful flair.

Odds and sods

* Most dominant performance: You'll never see a team play a more perfect game on defense than Bassfield did last week in its 35-0 destruction of Eupora in the Class 2A State Championship game. In a championship setting, the Yellowjackets held the Eagles to just 46 yards of offense and two first downs.

* Best play by a non-player: And, finally, arguably my favorite play of the year. Former Hattiesburg High and University of Memphis standout quarterback Martin Hankins, working the Laurel-Oak Grove game as a side judge, threw a penalty flag about 40 yards onto the field in a near-perfect spiral after spotting an infraction.

Yep, it was that kind of year.

Follow Stan Caldwell on Twitter at @StanMan1717.




Boys Basketball

Rank School Record
1 Laurel High School
Laurel, MS
2 Quitman High School
Quitman, MS
3 Hattiesburg High School
Hattiesburg, MS
4 Wayne County High School
Waynesboro, MS
5 West Jones High School
Laurel, MS