Six different Hattiesburg High players put points on the board in Friday night's 37-7 victory over Harrison Central at D.I. Patrick Stadium.
It's that well-balanced attack that Tigers head coach Danny Nowell says is "comforting."
"(Opposing teams) can't just zero in on one player, so it's good to have that kind of balance," he said. "We're fortunate to have some playmakers." No kidding. Tony Bridges, DeAnthony Williams, Marquise Walker, Quavier Hammond, Tristan Walley and Evinn Watson each accounted for scores Friday. Watson connected on a 23-yard field goal, while Bridges returned an interception 19 yards for a touchdown - both in the first quarter - to put Hattiesburg up 10-0. Relatively speaking, Harrison Central's defense held Hattiesburg in check in the first half, as the Red Rebels trailed just 17-7 at halftime. Dwayne Barnett's 6-yard score with 5:43 left in the second quarter accounted for Harrison Central's lone score. But after the break, the Tigers' running game simply took over. "We realized what they were doing on defense," said Walker, who paced the Tigers with 173 rushing yards on 13 carries. "We saw they couldn't stop certain plays, so we just kept on feeding the ball to the running backs." Four plays into the second half, Walker hit paydirt after a 12-yard run. On Hattiesburg's next possession, Hammond made good on a 7-yard dash into the end zone, giving the Tigers a 31-7 lead with 6:55 left in the third quarter. "We came out more determined in the second half, I thought," Nowell said. "We didn't play with a lot of emotion or effort on either side of the ball in the first half. But they responded a little bit at halftime and picked it up." As well as the Tigers' offense performed against Harrison Central, the Hattiesburg defense - which Nowell maintains is his team's strong suit - held its own Friday. It created three turnovers and came away with two sacks, one each from Akiem Coleman and Anthony Keyes. Keyes, a senior linebacker, made his first start of the season after breaking his jaw in the Tigers' preseason jamboree in August. "He made a big difference on our defense (Friday night)," Nowell said. "He made several plays behind the line of scrimmage. He's quick and smart in reading what's going on." Barnett led all Harrison Central rushers with 52 yards on 17 carries. Hammond tallied 90 yards on nine carries for Hattiesburg, while quarterback Jamal Hatten racked up 39 yards on 11 totes. Hattiesburg improved to 4-0, while the Red Rebels dropped to 0-3 this season. The Tigers welcome Petal (3-1) next week in the Region 3-6A opener for both teams. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.