GAUTIER — A pair of teams desperately in need of a win converged on Gautier-Vancleave Road Friday night to open Region 4-5A play.
And when the dust settled in the Swamp, it was the Gators that survived.
Home-standing Gautier overcame a brief one-point deficit after giving away an early 13-0 lead and hung on for a 25-14 win at Vaughn-Wallace Stadium.
The win moves GHS to to 3-3 overall on the season and more importantly 1-0 in the region race, while VHS falls to 1-5 overall with its fifth consecutive loss and the Bulldogs fall behind in league play at 0-1.
In this U.S. Highway 57 rivalry, Gautier now holds a commanding 19-4 advantage in this series, including 11 straight wins by the Gators over the Bulldogs in the past 12 years. Gautier was coming off. loss to Columbia last week while Vancleave had an open date last week.
Gautier quarterback Trey Iriving helped guide the Gators to a 13-0 halftime lead as he accounted for a pair of touchdowns in the first half. He scored on a short run less than four minutes into the contest and then he connected with LJ Bennett for a 15-yard touchdown toss 17 seconds into the second stanza to account for all of the first half scoring.
The Bulldogs bounced back in the third frame, however, as quarterback Hunter Parker hooked up with Junior Harris on a 15-yard scoring strike mid-way through the period to cut the deficit to six at 13-7.
That score stood until a little over eight minutes to play, when a flury of scoring unfolded to result in a back-and-forth affair to end the contest.
Vancleave defender Layton Eder picked off an Irving pass by returned it 82 yards for a pick-six at the 8:33 mark of the final quarter. The point-after by Jordyn Hoda gave VHS its only lead of the night and its first in several weeks at 14-13.
But Gautier wouldn’t be denied.
About three minutes later, Irving found Kelvin Beaverson a short scoring strike to make it 19-14.
After Vancleave fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Gators sealed the win when Kasin Thomas covered 20 yards on the ground to make it 25-14 and complete the comeback.
Derrick Robinson had the key fumble recovery for GHS. The last time Vancleave enjoyed a win over Gautier was in 2011 in this annual rivalry.
Next week, the Gators travel to Waynesboro for a big region game between a pair of teams that sit 1-0 in league play. Meanwhile, Vancleave tries to avoid its sixth straight loss when it hosts Stone.