Prairie View 22, Tri-County 14
Scoring on six of its seven full possessions, Prairie View cruised to a 44-30 MAIS Class 2A quarterfinal triumph over Amite School Center (Miss.) Friday night at Dr. E.D. Baker Field.
With the victory, the Spartans (9-3) have crossed into uncharted waters. Advancing to the semifinal round for the first time since joining the MAIS, Prairie View travels to Tri-County, a 22-14 winner over No. 1 seed Marshall. Kickoff time is Friday at 7 p.m. in Flora, Mississippi.
Prairie View was in control from start to finish against ASC.
Receiving the opening kickoff, the Spartans needed just seven plays to crack the scoreboard.
"I was surprised when they deferred," Prairie View coach Bo Barton said after the Rebels won the pregame coin toss. "The last couple of weeks — even against Claiborne (in Week 10) — we started off slow. At this point in the season, when you get the football, you better take advantage of it. We did start fast tonight."
Actually, the purple-clad Spartans never slowed down. Averaging 8.5 yards per play, Prairie View made it look easy while accumulating 455 yards of total offense (313 rushing, 142 passing).
"Offensively, we're hitting on all cylinders," Barton said. "When you can throw the ball and run the ball, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. Right now, I think we're playing very good."
Starting their opening drive from the 34, the Spartans twice converted on third down. Hayes Crockett threw to Layton Rainbolt for 12 yards on third-and-nine from the 35, and Tanner Caldwell juked his way for 44 yards all the way to the 9 on third-and-10 from the 47. Proving equally effective with his feet, Crockett ran it in on first-and-goal. Crockett's 2-point throwback pass to Cole Kinnaird on the tackle eligible put the Spartans up 8-0 just over three minutes in.
ASC drove from its own 33 to the Prairie View 26 on its initial possession before Jacob Farrar's 44-yard interception return flipped the field position.
Amite then made its only defensive stop of the evening, taking over on downs at the 32.
Four plays later, the Rebels punted the ball back to the Spartans, who took over at their own 46.
Crockett's 32-yard run to the left edge set up his own 13-yard touchdown run to the right edge. Layton Rainbolt ran the conversion as the Spartans padded their lead to 16-0 in the waning seconds of the opening period.
ASC was never able to close within a single possession.
Quarterback Connor Hartzog's 10-yard TD keeper capped an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive to put the Rebels on the board, closing the gap to 16-6. ASC was unsuccessful on all five 2-point tries.
"We did a great job defending 2-point plays," Barton said. "They have done a great job on 2-point plays all year. They have seven or eight plays they run, and we stopped them twice out of the swinging gate. Our kids did a great job of not hanging their heads after they scored, and getting ready to stop the next play. They were 0-for-5 on 2-point plays. That's the difference between a 44-30 ballgame and a 44-40 ballgame."
Prairie View got the ball back at the plus-43 after ASC's ill-fated onside kick attempt rolled only three yards.
Kentrell Spencer and Tanner Caldwell both had touchdowns wiped out by holding penalties before Crockett sneaked across for his third touchdown of the game.
Rainbolt's 17-yard sliding catch on third-and-goal from the 19 set up the touchdown as the Spartans opened up a 22-6 spread.
Hartzog's 15-yard run brought the Rebels within 22-12 with 2:29 remaining in the half.
Upon receiving the second half kickoff, ASC picked up a first down before Austin Carroll's stop in the backfield led to a punting situation.
Brady Milton's 42-yard punt was downed at the 1.
Undaunted, the Spartans covered 99 yards on 10 plays, overcoming a holding call and a delay of game penalty along the way.
Crockett's 25-yard second down toss to Caldwell gave the Spartans some operating room at the 26.
With the Spartans facing third-and-22 from their own 47, Layton Woodard's 21-yard grab and Rainbolt's 27-yard carry set up first-and-goal from the 5. Spencer took it in from there and Crockett ran the conversion to put the Spartans in charge 30-12.
Milton's 35-yard touchdown catch trimmed the deficit to 30-18.
Starting from the plus-49 after an onside kick attempt, the Spartans needed just 14 seconds to answer. Hitting the right sideline on the jet sweep, Spencer jetted 49 yards to the end zone. Rainbolt's 2-point run expanded the difference to 38-18 with 1:09 left in quarter number three.
Hartzog and Rainbolt traded touchdown runs of 3 and 5 yards, bringing the score to 44-24 with 4:18 on the clock.
ASC methodically drove 51 yards on nine plays to close out the scoring as the Spartans were willing to concede yardage while allowing the clock to tick away. Hartzog's fourth touchdown of the evening brought the score to 44-30 with 1:47 to play.
"Defensively, our goal coming in was to not give up the big play, and we did a pretty good job of that," Barton said. "Amite was a different type of team. They were huge an speed-based. They line up guys on both sides of the field and make you cover them, and try to run between the tackles. They do a great job on formations, and pound you to death."
As Barton began the Friday night ritual of washing uniforms, he had few complaints.
"We missed a couple of assignments on defense and we made a couple of mistakes on offense, but overall, I couldn't be more proud of these guys than I am right now," Barton said. "There are only four teams left, and the truth is you have to play better every game."
For the first time in program history, the Spartans are one of those four teams left.
Notes: Crockett (13 carries, 112 yards, 3 touchdowns), Rainbolt (18-129-1) and Hartzog (26-116-4) all eclipsed the 100-yard mark. ... In an effort to confuse the Rebels, Barton had the Spartans wear different jersey numbers. Whether or not the move caught ASC off guard is uncertain, but it definitely confused the fans — even some parents — and the media. (By the Numbers, which accompanies this story, differs from the original version posted online as several errors were discovered upon reviewing the game film. ... Pressed into service when P.A. announcer Gary Guice had to leave at halftime, Andy Bunch finished out the game admirably. ... ASC sophomore Slade Toler is the nephew of Prairie View assistant coach Paul Shaw. ... ASC, the No. 13 seed, closed out the season 5-7. Last week, the Rebels upset No. 4 Newton County for their first postseason win in 16 years.