PASCAGOULA — The Pascagoula Panthers overcame a 14-0 first-quarter deficit and used 4 interceptions, two of which they returned for touchdowns, to pull out a hard-fought 32-21 victory over the Hancock Hawks before a homecoming crowd Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.
The victory pushes the Panthers record to 6-2 overall, but more importantly, keeps their playoff hopes alive in Region 4-6A with a 2-1 record.
Pascagoula looked comfortably ahead at 26-14 with 3:55 remaining in the game. But Hancock struck quickly with a 68-yard scoring strike from quarterback Dylan Moran to Kaleb Schaefer to cut the score to 26-21 at the 3:49 mark.
The Panthers were unable to run out the clock and Hancock got one more possession starting at their 8-yard line with 1:48 left after a 42-yard punt by Tank Bishop.
The Hawks ran off 7 plays to get to their 31 and then Jordan Webb stepped in front of a Moran pass and raced 52 yards for a score to seal the game.
Panther head coach Lewis Sims said he wasn’t too worried when his team found themselves behind 14-0 because it was a homecoming game.
“I knew it was homecoming and our guys had a lot of emotion built up. Once we got through the jitters we knew what we could do. We just had to come together,’’ Sims said. “We made plays when we needed to.’’
Hancock almost pulled off a trick play, the old hook and ladder, just before the interception that sealed the game for the Panthers. That had Sims concerned.
“We just had to get a stop. Stay back and don’t let them get behind us. They have a great quarterback and a great set of receivers.’’
Sims wasn’t sure of the Panther’s playoff position after the win.
“I think a win next week puts us in. But right now it’s up in the air until we find out what everybody else did,’’ he said
Hancock’s two first-quarter scores came on a 5-yard run by Zachary Gullung and a 26-yard Moran to Braxton Johnson pass.
Pascagoula finally got on the board in the third quarter when Amare Jackson reached pay dirt from 14 yards out.
The Panther’s second TD was set up by a 44-yard interception return by Jaylon Parnell to the Hancock 11. On the first play, Chris Campbell took a handoff from running back Amarie Jackson and went in standing up. The try for 2 failed and the score was 14-12 Hancock.
Pascagoula took its first lead at 20-14 in the third quarter on a Silas Corder pass of 39 yards to Darius Carter.
Jason Payne pushed the PHS lead to 26-14 with 3:55 left when he stepped in front of a Moran pass and sprinted in front of the Hancock bench 52 yards to the end zone.
Pascagoula finished the scoring with 58 seconds left with its 4th pick of the game and second for a TD.
The Panthers will visit West Harrison next Friday at 7 p.m. Hancock’s record drops to 7-2 overall and 1-2 in the region.