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So close, but so far

By Staff
Nov. 25, 2000
RUNNING HARD Newton County running back Germaine Smith runs for some tough yards against the Magee defense Friday night in Decatur at Warrior Stadium at East Central Community College. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
DECATUR Remember the Holy Roller? The Newton County Cougars know how the San Diego Chargers felt after the Oakland Raiders turned a fumble into a game-winning touchdown that sparked a rules change in the NFL some years ago.
Magee used a similar play on a two-point conversion to knock off Newton County 14-13 for the Class 3A South State Championship Friday night.
Magee quarterback Brian Hayes set up the dramatics when he scrambled around left end and weaved his way across and up the field for a 63-yard gain to the NCHS 2 with just under two minutes remaining and Newton County leading 13-6.
A.J. Holloway got a touchdown on the play after Hayes' long gainer to bring the Trojans to within 13-12 with only 1:16 to go. Winslow went for the win with Willis Hobbs taking the handoff from Hayes. As he was being stopped short of the goalline, Hobbs flipped the ball into the end zone where the Trojans fell on the ball for the decisive two points.
Newton County finished 10-3, while Magee, 12-2, will take on Ripley, 13-1, for the 3A state championship Saturday afternoon in Jackson at 3 p.m. Ripley, led by former Neshoba Central head coach Terry Allen, defeated Amory 22-9 for the 3A North half crown.
Prior to Hayes' long run, the Cougars had just extended their lead to 13-6 on a 25-yard field goal by David McConnell with 2:07 remaining after Kody Comans recovered a Hayes fumble at the Magee 38. The Cougars covered 29 yards on 10 plays before McConnell drilled his second field goal of the night. A key play on the drive came when Brian McDonald recovered his own fumble and got around right end for a first down at the 15.
Settling for three points would eventually come back to doom the Cougars, however.
Magee started strong, moving 60 yards in nine plays to take a 6-0 lead with 7:32 left in the opening period. Holloway got the touchdown on a 1-yard run.
After going three-and-out on their first three possessions, the Cougars put together a 10-play, 66-yard scoring drive late in the second period. Germaine Smith scored the touchdown on a 4-yard run with 2:06 to go before halftime. Smith had seven carries for 41 yards on the drive. The big gainer on the drive was a 16-yard slant-in from McDonald to Delvioun Merrell to the Magee 26. McConnell's PAT gave the Cougars a 7-6 lead.
The Cougars owned the second period, racking up 80 yards to just 3 for Magee after the Trojans held an 87-12 advantage in the first quarter.
Darryl Mapp recovered an onside kick to put the Cougars back in business at the NCHS 48 following Smith's score. The drive fizzled fast, but the Cougars set up shop at the Magee 14 when McConnell's punt was fumbled.
After three incompletions, McConnell booted a 31-yard field goal to put the Cougars up 10-6 with 36 seconds to go before halftime.
Magee got to the NCHS 34 midway through the third period before Hayes punted to the Cougar 9.
A 45-yard punt by McConnell moved the Trojans back to their 35.
A fourth quarter fumble by Hayes that Comans recovered gave the Cougars a chance to pad their lead. Smith had six carries for 19 yards to set up McConnell's field goal that put Newton County up 13-6 with 2:07 left.
On the first play following Hobbs' 18-yard kickoff return to the Magee 35, Hayes got loose for his 63-yard game-breaking run.
Newton County had 176 total yards with 147 coming on 45 rushes. Smith gained 102 yards on 25 carries to lead the Cougars. Mapp added 33 yards on nine carries. McDonald was 3-of-13 passing for 29 yards.
Magee had 187 total yards with 137 coming on 33 rushes. Hayes led the Trojans with 58 yards on 10 carries. Holloway gained 50 yards on 15 rushes. Hayes completed 4-of-9 passes for 50 yards.
Marty Stamper is a sports correspondent for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at