WAYNESBORO - Marcus Boyles' return to Wayne County as Petal's new head football coach couldn't have gone any better if he had scripted it himself.
The Panthers made Boyles' debut as Petal's coach one to remember Saturday night as they smashed Wayne County 38-14 before a packed house estimated at 8,000 at War Eagle Stadium.
"Coming back here, there were a lot of mixed emotions," said Boyles, who was the War Eagles head coach for 12 seasons before taking the Petal job. "Standing on the visitors side, and to see those kids I spent so much time with, it was tough. But I couldn't be more proud of the group I brought here from Petal." He should be. Petal played about as perfect a football game as a team can play in dismantling the War Eagles. Senior Larson Barkurn made his debut as the Panthers quarterback, and showed he is more than capable of filling the shoes left by the departed Anthony Alford. "We had a great week of practice, but the credit goes to the guys up front," Barkurn said. "They blocked everything. They were stellar all night." Barkurn opened the scoring on the first possession of the game, hitting JaMarcus Revies with an 11-yard touchdown pass. For the game, Barkurn completed 8-of-14 passes for 95 yards, and ran for 52 yards on 10 carries adding another touchdown on the ground. Wayne County scored on consecutive possession on runs of 34 yards and 20 yards by junior D.J. Sims to take a 14-7 lead. But after that, it was all Petal. "They came out with some personnel we hadn't seen and we had to adjust to it," said senior linebacker Trevor Williams. "The defense came out a little flat, so some of us seniors had to get everyone motivated to hit some people." Petal tied the score late in the second quarter on a 3-yard run by John Windham, then got the big break it needed when Johna Myers picked off a Jarvis Chambers pass at the Petal 39-yard line with 37 seconds remaining in the first half. Barkurn connected with Jesse Jackson on a 22-yard pass play to set Tristan Reynolds up in position for a 37-yard field goal to end the half. "That was a big turning point there," said Wayne County coach Todd Mangum. "It was another opportunity for them to get the ball. Hats off to them. They're a good football team, and they're going to win a lot of games." Petal turned to its running game in the second half, using junior Tyus Raine to great effect. The transfer from Poplarville ran 31 times for 157 yards and a touchdown. "I didn't expect to run it that much," said Raine. "But all the conditioning, all the work we did this summer, paid off." Petal added to its lead after recovering a muffed punt at the War Eagle 18, with Raine getting the score from 2 yards out. The Panthers added another score on Barkurn's 17-yard run, and on the first play after the kickoff, Williams stepped in front of swing pass and took the interception 9 yards for the final score. "We got to clicking in the second half," Boyles said. "We were able to run the football, which is what we wanted to do, with our big offensive linemen."