Biggersville — The last two seasons have been filled with firsts for the Biggersville football Lions.
Friday night, in front of a raucous and enthusiastic crowd of fans clad in maroon-and-white, the Lions added another first as they rallied from a 17-6 first half deficit to defeat TCPS 32-17 and advance to the 1A North Half championship game where they will challenge two-time defending state champion Nanih Waiya.
It marks the first time in BHS school history to advance this far in the playoffs. Biggersville has ended the past two seasons in the second round, known in 1A as the North Half semifinals.
“This is a special team with special players, special fans and a special coaching staff,” said Lions head coach Stan Platt who will retire at the conclusion of the season.
“I’m just telling you straight up that I am so very fortunate to be the head coach here,” Platt stated. “Our assistant coaches make my job a lot easier and the players just go out every week and execute. They have gone from five years ago hoping not to lose to now expecting to win every time they walk out on that field.”
Prior to Platt taking over the program the Lions limped home with a 3-9 record in 2015. His 2016 team went 4-7. Since that time the current Biggersville senior class has lost only eight games while compiling an overall 42-8 overall record.
And to add butter to the biscuit the Lions have produced undefeated division slates on their way to claiming two consecutive Region 1-1A titles.
“We used to be everybody’s homecoming game and now it’s hard to get anyone to play us outside our division. That speaks volumes of the coaching staff, players, fans and administration we have here at Biggersville. This is a great community to live and play in,” Platt added.
The game itself was not a carbon copy of the first when BHS took TCPS down 46-21 in week one but there were many similarities. The Lions were once again dominant on defense, coming up with big play after big play after spotting the Eagles a 17-6 second quarter advantage.
And TCPS received an even larger dose of senior Goldman Butler this time.
The visitors scored the game’s first 10 points on a 63-yard Khi Holiday to Noah Foster touchdown pass and a 28-yard field goal by Stuart Long, with both scores coming in the first quarter.
Biggersville finally got on the scoreboard when Butler passed five yards to fellow senior Jack Eaton to cut the Eagles lead to 10-6 with 9:26 remaining in the first half.
After the two teams traded punts, TCPS went ahead 17-6 on a one-yard TD run by Holiday 6:42 before intermission.
Having won the opening coin toss and deferring to the second half, Biggersville knew they would receive the ball first in the third quarter but would rather be down three than 11 when that time arrived.
They took care of that little issue following a nine-play, 70-yard drive that took five minutes off the clock. The resulting touchdown came on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Butler to Zae Davis after Butler caught a short lateral from quarterback Dylan Rowsey.
Rowsey connected with Zyonn Mayes for the two-point conversion pass, creating a 17-14 halftime score.
“We made some early mistakes and turned the ball over on downs, allowing them (Eagles) to grab the early lead but this team has a mental toughness and resiliency that gives us a lot of confidence that we are gonna win no matter what,” said Butler after possibly the best game of his high school career, rushing 42 times for 256 yards and two touchdowns while completing 3-3 passes for 62 yards and three touchdowns.
“All these seniors, including myself, want that state championship and we feel we’re more than capable of getting it done,” Butler continued. “And I think we might just have the best defense in the state.”
For the game, Butler produced 318 total yards and was responsible for all five Biggersville touchdowns.
That defense he spoke of overcame a slow start and harassed Holiday the entire second half, coming up with several key sacks and TFL at critical times. Two of the sacks came in the fourth period from Cole Baggett and Cole Butler, who had the final sack of the Eagles big-play maestro, dropping Holiday for an 11-yard loss on a third and 17 play from the 47.
The Lions led 26-17 at the time and turned the ensuing possession into the final TD that iced the game when Butler scored from five yards out with 2:23 remaining.
Cole Butler already has a state championship ring, winning one as a member of last year’s Corinth 4A state title team. If the Lions go on to win the 1A state championship in two weeks Butler will be the only player in Alcorn County football history to own two rings with two different teams.
“That would be surreal,” said the sophomore linebacker. “On that last sack I just locked it into four-wheel drive mode and went after him (Holiday). I felt it coming on a play earlier. I knew I could get to him and I did. Our entire defense did a great job.”
Biggersville (12-0) will travel to face Nanih Waiya (12-0), a 36-3 winner over Baldwyn, next Friday with a trip to the 1A state championship game on the line.
Fulton — In a rematch of last years third round game at Warrior Stadium II, where Corinth won 44-31 on their way to the 4A state championship, the Warriors faced Itawamba with a much different look than one season ago.
Both teams lost a boatload of talented players off those teams that are playing collegiately now and are a lot younger this fall. But it was still a game featuring two very capable squads. Last years Corinth and Itawamba squads finished 14-1 and 13-1 respectively.
The Indians prevailed 23-18 in a contest that could very well be attributed to the lack of a kicking game for CHS. Starting kicker Eli Burciaga, a first team All-Division 1-4A selection, was once again ruled inactive following COVID guidelines. Because Burciaga was unavailable for the second straight week, the Tribe once more went for two following all three touchdowns, missing on all three attempts. Corinth also missed at least two opportunities to add short field goals inside the red zone when drives stalled short of the goal line.
That all adds up to a possible total of nine points left on the field that ultimately cost Corinth the game and ended their season one game short of the 4A North Half championship contest.
Corinth took a 6-0 first quarter lead on a one-yard Nazarius Jones TD run before Itawamba tied the game at six on a short touchdown pass early in the second quarter. An Indians field goal made it 9-6 before the Warriors forged ahead once again, 12-9, on an 18-yard scoring run by Jones with 3:50 remaining in the first half.
However, the home team had one more first half TD left in them, making it 16-12 at intermission following a short touchdown pass and PAT.
Corinth regained the lead early in the third period on a 30-yard TD run by Cayden Betts, his only one of the game after scoring six last week against West Lauderdale.
Betts ended the contest with 194 rushing yards and a touchdown while Jones had 97 yards and two TDs. The Indians basically took the Warriors passing game away as Brawner Cregeen finished 5-11 for 43 yards and an interception. The sophomore was 10-10 a week earlier for 200 yards and three touchdowns against the Knights.
Complete game stats were unavailable and CHS head coach Todd Lowery was unavailable for comment following the game.
The Warriors finish the 2020 campaign 7-4 while Itawamba improves to 8-3 and will play at 11-1 Louisville, a 28-7 winner over Pontotoc, next Friday for the North Half championship.