MOSS POINT — Moss Point used a stiff defense and an opportunistic offense to shred Northeast Jones 40-0 Friday night in a cat fight marking the opening round of the Mississippi Class 4A playoffs.
Moss Point (7-3) will host Popularville (9-2), which beat Raymond 42-7, next Friday night in the second round of the playoffs in what should be a fierce donnybrook.
Despite the eventual blowout, the game was tight early. However, the visiting Tigers lost both inside linebackers to injuries in the first half and Moss Point was able to capitalize on two major mistakes by the Northeast Jones punting team.
After Northeast Jones’ second possession of the game stalled at their 34, Kye Braddock dropped back to punt. But snap sailed over his head, and although Braddock managed to recover the ball inside his 15 and get off a punt, the resulting net was only seven yards.
A 15-yard run by Jonathon Thompson and a late hit call moved the ball to the Northeast 12. Two plays later, Terrance Goodwin found Larry Simmons for a 9-yard strike for the first score of the game with 2:25 left in the first quarter.
Then, with Moss Point leading 14-0, the home-standing Tigers’ Taboris Charles blocked a Northeast punt to give Moss Point the ball at the visiting plus-19 yard line. Simmons did most of the work from there, rushing three times for 16 yards, including one carry where he scored on a 19-yard run only to have the score called back on a holding call at the 10. He eventually scored from six yards out to give Moss Point a 21-0 lead at the half.
“They are a really good team,” said Northeast Jones coach Keith Braddock. “In the first quarter, we had some good things happen, but penalties kept us behind the sticks and our drives stalled.”
What turned the game, Braddock said, was the short field given to them by Northeast mistakes in the punting game. “We gave them the short field and they took advantage of it.”
“Those plays gave us the momentum we needed,” said Moss Point coach Gene Harmon, who also noted his team’s offense was moving the ball, but couldn’t sustain drives early.”Those punts swung things in our favor and gave us momentum.”
And, once Moss Point was firmly in the lead, the Tiger defense took over. Led by Kaleb Raston, who had 10 stops, Moss Point limited Northeast to just 62 yards total offense on the night, brutally closing the center of the line of scrimmage to Kaleb Bryant and Zac Dyess.
“That is Moss Point football,” Raston said of the hard-hitting defense put on display against Northeast Jones. “We played disciplined against their double wing. We were in good shape all night long.”
“We finally got all our defensive players back,” Harmon said, adding that Moss Point had been banged up on defense throughout the regular season. “They took care of the little things tonight and we told them if they took care of the little things, everything else would take care of itself.
“Our defense was outstanding tonight. They were flying to the football and having fun.”
While the defense was keeping Northeast from moving the ball, the offense was taking advantage of its quick-strike capability, much of it through Jonathan Thompson, who scored on runs of 65 and 57 yards in the second half to salt the game away.
“That’s all on my offensive line,” said Thompson, who finished with 144 yards on just six carries. “Their blocking made me look successful. Once we started running the ball, we took the game over.”
Tavion Evans added 77 yards on 10 carries, scoring Moss Point’s second touchdown on a 13-yard carry in the second quarter.
Goodwin was 9-of-14 for 122 yards and two touchdowns, both to Simmons. Simmons ran the ball five times for 26 yards and caught the ball four times for 70 yards, two touchdowns, and a two-point conversion. Kiki Ford added three catches for 30 yards.
On defense, Tim Thomas, LaQuinton Boler, and Kaden Padgett each had at least five stops.
Harmon said the Moss Point defense was healthy and its running game was rounding into shape. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we are doing some good things right now.”