D’IBERVILLE — Kenneth Irving withstood a push from a Petal defensive back to haul in Dwight Williams’ fourth-down pass with 45 seconds left on the clock as D’Iberville fought off Petal 33-31 in the first round of the Class 6A Mississippi football playoffs Friday night.
With the win, the Warriors (10-0) advance to the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A playoffs and will play Northwest Rankin.
“It’s huge,” said Justin Walley, who scored three touchdowns. “It’s our first playoff win in a long time.”
Petal (6-5) flirted with the upset for much of the second half. The Warriors could do little to stop the connection between Panther quarterback Jackson Allen and receiver Micah Cherry. The duo connected six times for 169 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown catch and run in the second quarter to put Petal on the board for the first time.
A 31-yard pass play to Cherry and a pass interference call against Walley pushed the Panthers to the D’Iberville 21. Jeremiah Robinson got the ball and sprinted 20 yards to give Petal a 17-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
On their next possession, the Panthers used 11 plays to drive 78 yards, aided by four Warriors’ personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct calls. Again, Robinson got the call and powered in from the one-yard line to give Petal a 24-14 lead and what seemed like all the momentum with 10:45 left.
But those penalties on the Petal drive seemed to motivate the Warriors. “You don’t want the penalties,” said D’Iberville coach Larry Dolan. “But, they seemed to motivate us. Our players seem to play off their emotions.”
“The penalties motivated us pretty good,” said Walley.
Taking over at their own 22, the Warriors moved the ball quickly downfield behind Walley and Drey Lenoir. Walley did the honors, sprinting in from 19 yards out for his third score of the night and, since the Warriors missed the point after, bringing D’Iberville to within four, 24-20 with seven minutes to play.
D’Iberville didn’t trail much longer. Raymond Lias executed the tipped-ball drill to perfection on Petal’s next possession, intercepting a batted ball at the line of scrimmage and taking it 43 yards the other way for the pick-six to give D’Iberville a 27-24 lead with 5:51 left in the game.
Allen and company were still looking for the upset. The splendid quarterback completed passes of 20, 12, and 16 yards to Cherry and the Panthers found themselves at the end zone doorstep. Once again, it would be Robinson doing the honors, this time from 4 yards out with his third score of the night giving Petal back the lead, 31-27 with less than three minutes left to play.
“I was really proud of us getting back in the game,” said Panthers coach Marcus Boyles. “We had our chances late in the game.”
But the Warriors rose to the occasion one more time after getting the ball with 2:30 left in the game at their own 35. Again running behind Lenoir and Walley, D’Iberville moved the ball over midfield and then to the Petal 22 thanks to a penalty for roughing the passer with 1:23 left to play.
The Panthers defense seemed to rise to the situation, dropping Walley for a 1-yard loss on first down, limiting a pass completion to Lenoir for 4 yards on second and nearly forcing an interception on third down.
Dolan said that a lot of plays ran through his mind as he called timeout for the fourth down play. And, he thought back to the game against Wayne County.
“We decided to do what we do best,” he said. And he called the pass to the back of the end zone.
“It’s going through my mind to just relax and keep calm,” said Williams. As he went back and surveyed the field, “I saw my receiver beat his man in the end zone.”
“Last year I didn’t have any big catches,” said Irving, “but I focused on catching the ball.”
Irving’s catch pushed D’Iberville back out by two, 33-31, but a missed extra point gave Petal one more chance at the upset. The Panthers took over at their 43 and Allen connected with Robinson on fourth down for 20 yards to move the ball to the Warriors 36. Three incompletions, including one on first down to stop the clock, left Petal facing a fourth-and-10 at the 36 with seven seconds on the clock.
But that’s as close as Petal came. Daunte Taylor picked off Allen’s final pass as time expired to secure the Warriors’ win.
Walley, who the MHSAA named 2020’s “Mr. Football” for 6A on Thursday, finished with 182 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns. Williams was 10-of-11 passing for 123 yards and two passes to Walley for 20 yards.
Colton Deshazo added three catches for 62 yards and Lenoir finished with 64 yards on 15 carries and caught three passes for 11 yards.
Allen was 14-of-34 passing for 229 yards. Robinson had 60 yards on 17 carries and caught four passes for 38 yards.