PASCAGOULA — Resurrection Catholic School football coaches issued a challenge to their players before they hit the field Friday night against West Tallahatchie at Pascagoula’s War Memorial Stadium. The Eagles answered the call with a solid 33-16 victory over the Choctaws in round two of the Class 1A state football playoffs.
The Eagles upped their record to 9-2 and will go on the road next Friday against Velma Jackson in the south-state semifinals. WT falls to 6-5.
“I’m so proud of them. We challenged them in the locker room. We have not come out in the last seven games and played all four quarters,” RCS head coach Eric Denmark said.
“We have been dead the first half. We have driven the ball, but we haven’t been able to punch it in. We’ve put the defense in some bad spots. We come out the second half and we play our tails off. But tonight, they came out in the first quarter and took control of the game and never looked back.”
RCS running back Daniel Pickens carried 27 times for a hard-earned 109 yards and three scores on runs of 1, 3, and 10 yards and hauled in a 25-yard TD pass from quarterback Luke Schnoor. Place-kicker Iain Cumbest drilled field goals of 29 and 48 yards (which would have been good from another 10 yards) and 3 of 3 extra point tries.
“The real test starts Monday,” Denmark told his team. “That’s when it really gets real. Every day, every practice play counts. August, May, June, July, me and coach (Scott) Sisson said, ‘Ya’ll were special.’ Didn’t know what it was, but there was something special about this group. And days like tonight prove it.”
The Eagles opened the scoring on their first drive with Cumbest’s first field goal after a Schnoor pass was dropped in the end zone.
It took West Tallahatchie only 2 plays to get on the board. The Choctaws lined up in an unbalanced line stacked to the right, and Issac Day bolted 45 yards for a touchdown. Christian Lee’s 2-point conversion put WT in the lead 8-3.
Sisson, the Eagles defensive coordinator, quickly made an adjustment and the Choctaws’ offense sputtered the rest of the game.
“We knew we had to make an adjustment right then,” Sisson said. “We saw that formation in the film. In practice in 1-A, you don’t get the same kind of looks cause you don’t have that many kids.
“We realized we had to have a linebacker standing up. We dropped down to a 6-man front and stood the linebacker up. That gave us better angles to the ball, and their linemen couldn’t get to them. It worked the rest of the night. And we started pinching the tackles.”
Schnoor ran 5 times for 49 yards and completed 4 passes for another 70. Offensive coordinator Randy Roth said Schnoor’s play was a major key to the performance of the offense.
“We came out in our regular I stuff and gave the ball to Daniel Pickens,” Roth said. “But I think the difference tonight was our quarterback. He carried the ball and threw a beautiful ball for a touchdown and had another drop.”
The Eagles put 23 points on the board in the second quarter. Pickens first TD capped an 11-play, 66-yard drive to give RCS the lead for good at 10-8. Schnoor’s TD pass to Pickens was set up when West Tallahatchie went for it on 4th and 4 from their own 26 and was stuffed by the middle of the RCS defense.
The score went to 23-8 on Pickens 3-yard run after RCS defenders Andrew Harbin and Eric Fox blocked a West Tallahatchie punt after the kicker received a poor snap. Fox later added an interception.
The Choctaws used a flea-flicker to score their final TD on a 70-yard pass from Day to Jermaine Smith.
Pickens closed out the scoring with his 10-yard run with 8:16 to go.