Although Vancleave and Gautier posted different outcomes Thursday night to wrap up regular season play in Region 4-5A, both the Bulldogs and Gators are each headed to the Class 5A South State playoffs next week.
Gautier hit the road for its first-ever trip “Between the Bricks” at R. H. Watkins Stadium in Laurel and the Golden Tornadoes captured the region championship with a 48-30 win over the Gators.
The decision leaves both teams knotted atop the region race with 4-1 marks, but Laurel wins the head-to-head tiebreaker and earns the number one seed for playoff purposes while Gautier is second.
Laurel will host Jackson Provine to open the playoffs next Friday, while Gautier will host Natchez on the same night.
The Gators actually had leads of 10 points twice and nine points once at separate points in the first half, but couldn’t hold on for what would have resulted in their first region title in 15 years. Gautier led slightly 23-20 at halftime, but the second half was all Laurel as the Golden Tornadoes scored 28 unanswered points in the first 15 minutes of the second half to pull out the win.
Solomon Baggett ran for two touchdowns for Gautier and Kelvin Beavers threw a pair of touchdown passes for the Gators. Beavers hooked up with L.J. Bennett and Caylen Edwards on his scoring strikes.
Meanwhile, in Vancleave, it was a different story for the home-standing Bulldogs as they slipped past Wayne County 38-35 in exciting fashion in what turned into a battle for third place in Region 4-5A.
Bulldog fullback Hunter Harper plowed into the end zone from 2 yards out with just over a minute to play for what proved to be the winning points for VHS.
The game was a back-and-forth affair that the Bulldogs wrapped up when linebacker Scottie Toothman picked off a win-sealing interception with just seconds left.
The War Eagles had just taken a 35-32 lead on a scoring run with 2:39 left to play before Vancleave’s final push ended in Harper’s scoring plunge.
Both backup quarterbacks Wyatt Adams and Kyle Capers ran for one score and threw one touchdown pass apiece in the winning effort. Adams hit Christian Phillips on his scoring toss while Capers hooked up with Daylan Moore on his. Derik Forehand also added a rushing touchdown in the winning effort.
Wayne County led 28-20 at halftime.
Vancleave travels to Brookhaven to open the playoffs next Friday, while WCHS heads to Florence.