Thursday, October 18, 2012
Indians take district thriller
By BARRY BURLESON
Coach John Danley listened to his big boys Friday night and it paid off.
Facing two fourth and threes and a fourth and four in the final quarter, Byhalia went for and made first downs all three times and celebrated a huge 23-20 district win over Winona.
“The offensive line literally begged me to go for it,” said Danley, in his first year as head coach of the Indians. “They did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage and opening big running lanes.”
Those linemen are Dayon Davis, Tevin Milam, Davion Johnson, Michael Tadlock and Edwin Jones.
Devonte Norman ran for each of those first downs. He had 18 carries in the game for 180 yards.
Byhalia led 17-12 entering the fourth, when it faced a fourth and three at its own 32 to start the period. Norman gained 8 yards to the 40.
A few plays later the host Indians were staring at another fourth and three, this one from their own 47. Norman got the call again, running for 15 and a first.
Three plays later, quarterback Markeise Rodgers, under heavy pressure, tucked the ball away, broke a tackle and went 35 yards for a touchdown. The point-after try was blocked. It was 23-12.
The Byhalia defense halted the Tigers on their next possession. But the visiting team used a fake punt to earn a first. On the next play, Mario Hill threw short to Deion Stinson, who broke three tackles along the sideline and completed a 64-yard scoring connection. Patrick Purnell carried for the two. It was 23-20.
The Indians went three and out, but Norman’s 62-yard punt pinned Winona at its own 12 with 4:33 left.
The Byhalia defense forced the Tigers backwards. They faced a third and 14 and couldn’t convert – having to punt from their own end zone.
Then came the next fourth down for the Indian offense, with 1:55 remaining. Needing 4 yards, Norman popped through a big hole and gained 18.
Rodgers took a knee three straight times and the Indians won by three.
They’re 5-4 overall and 2-1 in Region 3-3A, putting them in the driver’s seat for second place and a home game in the first round.
“This was a big win for us, and we’re looking forward to riding this momentum the next two weeks and into the playoffs,” Danley said.
Winona received to open the game and ate up much of the first-quarter clock to take the lead. The 69-yard, 13-play drive ended with Purnell scoring from 11 yards out. The kick was no good.
Byhalia answered very quickly. Chris Rayford took the ensuing kickoff and dashed 90 yards for six points. Juan Hernandez’s extra-point kick gave the Indians a 7-6 lead with 5:29 to go in the first period.
Later in the quarter, the Indians coughed up the football at their own 8 and the Tigers recovered.
Purnell scored on a 3-yard run up the middle. The long point-after try, following a 15-yard penalty on Winona, was no good. The visitors were back in front, 12-7.
Midway through the second, Rodgers connected with Kenneth Wilson for 20 yards. Norman darted up the gut for 31 to the Tigers’ 9. But the drive stalled, and Hernandez kicked a 21-yard field goal to pull Byhalia within two, 12-10, at the 4:30 mark.
Cordell Anderson’s sack ended Winona’s last try for points in the first half.
The Indians began the second half with a 68-yard, eight-play scoring march. The big plays were a couple of passes by Rodgers – one to Wilson for 20 and a first and the next to Norman, who avoided three would-be tacklers to finish the 33-yard touchdown. Hernandez’ kick put Byhalia up 17-12.
With 6:27 left in the third, the Byhalia defense stopped Winona inches short on a fourth and two just inside the Tigers’ own territory.
In the fourth, Danley’s team stepped up to the task big-time. He said Winona played ball control all night and kept his defense on the field a lot, which factored into his decision to go for it on those fourth downs.
“I wanted to allow the defense time to get their wind back, plus I knew that they had not really stopped us all game, offensively,” he said. “And we needed to keep the clock running.”
The Indians had 295 yards rushing. The second-leading rusher was Rodgers with seven carries for 63 yards. He was four-of-nine passing for 70 yards.
Byhalia travels to Marks this Friday for a 7 p.m. game versus district foe Palmer. The Dragons are 5-2 overall and 1-2 in Region 3-3A.
“We have to get better every day,” Danley told his Indians after last Friday’s game. “We have to keep working – that’s the only way to reach our goals.”
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