SMITHVILLE – The Smithville Seminoles staked themselves out to a comfortable lead in the first half, but the Hatley Tigers came roaring back to challenge in the end as the two battled it out in their annual rivalry.
The Seminoles sealed the win when Jabril Smith snagged an interception to preserve the 33-25 win as Hatley was driving in the final seconds. Smithville had led 33-14 at halftime.
“We knew we had to come out here and finish,” Smith said. “When I saw that interception, I just went up and made a play.”
The Tigers made the noise first in the game as Nick Washington took the first play from scrimmage 59 yards to the house for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead after Luke Moffett’s extra point.
Smithville was quick to answer as just three plays later, Octavion Miller found Dyllan Moffett down the sideline, who sprinted his way for a 71-yard touchdown reception, to trail just 7-6 after the failed two-point conversion.
A Hatley fumble gave the Seminoles the ball around midfield on the next drive, and they used the passing game once again to get to the red zone quickly as Miller hit Moffett, Landon McMellon and Jamarcus Walton all for gains on the drive.
McMellon hauled in the 6-yard touchdown catch, and the Noles took the lead for good at 12-7.
“They were loading the box, so we thought we were going to throw it out wide,” McMellon said. “We have a great O-line that gave him time to throw, and he was throwing dimes all over the place.”
McMellon came up big again on the next drive, taking a punt deep into Hatley territory to set up good field position, then with a 17-yard catch to get in the red zone again. Miller found him again for his second touchdown of the night, and Smithville led 18-7 after Dylan Denton made the stop on the two-point conversion run.
The Tigers found their rhythm offensively again midway through the second as Hunt and Washington led a 60-yard drive, capped off by Washington’s 1-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 18-14.
The momentum was short-lived, however, as Will Reeves took the ensuing kickoff down to the 1-yard line where Miller took it in from there and made the two-point conversion to extend the lead.
Smithville rolled out to its 33-14 halftime lead on another Hatley miscue as a bad snap on a punt gave them the ball at the 12-yard line, where Miller hooked up with McMellon for his third touchdown of the night with just seven seconds left in the second quarter.
“We just hit our stride,” Miller said. “It’s just crazy how this game ended up, and I can’t wait for the next one.”
The Seminoles had the ball first in the third quarter but saw a promising drive end as Alex Cooper snagged an interception for the Tigers.
“We knew we would be able to throw the ball on them because we did it last year, but when you can’t run the ball against them, it was like what do you do to run the clock?” Smithville coach Michael Campbell said. “If we catch a ball at the end, we blow it wide open, but we had the mentality second half of just make the clock run and get out of here, play solid defense and don’t give up any big plays.”
The Tigers cut into the lead in the third on Moffett’s 28-yard field goal.
Hatley got the ball back just four plays later but had to go 92 yards on the drive after a Tyler Lann punt pinned them back deep.
Washington got the ball on nine plays of the long drive and motored into the end zone from seven yards out, then tacked on the two-point conversion to make it a one-score game.
“That kid is relentless. Hats off to him because we kept him in check as best we could,” Campbell said.
The Noles went three and out, and each team was hit with a costly penalty on Hatley’s next drive. First, the Tigers had a big pass play from Hunt to Washington wiped out on holding, then the Seminoles made a stop on fourth down but were flagged for roughing the passer.
Hatley got all the way down inside the Smithville 20-yard line before Smith’s interception with just two seconds to go helped the Noles hang on.
“Hats off to our defense because Coach (Mike) Bush, our defensive coordinator, had them ready to go and coached up,” Campbell said. “We fly around, and that’s something we hang our hats on. They outsize us, and we shouldn’t win on paper. They ought to beat us nine out of ten times, but our kids have a lot more heart. It’s amazing their size they have up front, and compared to them, we’re tiny, but our heart gets us the win every year.”
Hatley coach Ken Adams was pleased with his team’s ability to come back after facing a double-digit deficit at the half.
“I love the kids and the fight in them. I told them at halftime to go out there and win one play at a time,” Adams said. “We had turnovers and penalties, but those things happen and you have to come back. The way they came back in the second half, I love Hatley and what they represent when they step on the field.”
Miller was 16 of 24 passing for 195 yards and four touchdowns. McMellon had three of those and racked up eight catches for 81 yards.
Washington rushed for 339 yards on 43 carries to go along with his 150-yards plus in the first week against Hamilton.
“Nick’s a warrior. Markhel is a warrior. Our offensive linemen were coming off the ball so well,” Adams said. “No matter what the scoreboard says, our kids fought, and we gave ourselves the opportunity and just didn’t get it done. That’s what this game is all about. Hats off to Coach Campbell and his guys because they did a good job.”
Smithville hits the road next week, traveling to Mantachie, while Hatley returns home to face Nettleton.