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Hattiesburg takes slim win over Meridian

By By Stan Caldwell/EMG sports writer
November 9, 2002
HATTIESBURG When it comes to defending the Hattiesburg High offense, it's a case of picking your poison.
Meridian High took away one of the Tigers' weapons, holding James Hollingsworth in check, only to see Marquise McFarland step up and seize the day.
McFarland, a junior wide receiver, tied Hollingsworth's one-week-old state record by catching 16 passes, including four in a last-minute game-winning drive, to lead Hattiesburg past Meridian 23-20 Friday night at D.I. Patrick Stadium in the Region 3-5A regular-season finale for both teams.
The Tigers (5-6, 5-2) will play on, as they will travel to Gulfport next week in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. Meridian completes its season at 3-8 and 2-5.
McFarland's totals weren't as massive as Hollingsworth's were last week at Brandon, when he caught 16 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns. McFarland finished with just 187 yards in receptions, but they were nearly all big yards, including a 19-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
The Wildcats came into the game with a reputation of being better than their record, and that held true against Hattiesburg. Meridian held Hollingsworth to just one catch for 19 yards, and harassed quarterback Martin Hankins into a sub-par night. Hankins completed 23 of 39 passes for 242 yards and he was picked off once.
Meridian kept the Tigers off the scoreboard through the first quarter, but immediately handed Hattiesburg two points on the first play of the second quarter, when Wildcat punter Chris Kitchens couldn't handle a high snap and was forced to eat the ball in his own end zone.
Hattiesburg then took the ensuing free kick and marched 54 yards in five plays, getting the score on Hankins' scoring pass to McFarland. Jordan Kobs kick made it 9-0.
Meridian struck back later in the second quarter, striking quickly after a 44-yard punt return by Kevin Moore to the Hattiesburg 30. Deangelo Jones burst up the gut for 29 yards on the next play and scored on a 1-yard plunge on the play after that. A bad snap on the conversion, however, kept the score 9-6 with 4:27 to play in the first half.
On the ensuing drive, Hankins got hot, hitting McFarland with four passes in an 11-play, 82-yard scoring drive. Josh Barnes got the touchdown on a 5-yard run after Hankins hit McFarland with consecutive passes of 17 and 11 yards.
Meridian opened the second half with authority, taking the opening kickoff of the half and using up 7:08 off the clock in a 13-play, 86-yard drive. Jones scored from 38 yards out, and Gambrell added the PAT to make it 16-13.
The Wildcat defense stiffened, stopping the Tigers on downs, then getting a pass interception by Thomas Smith. Meridian then took the lead with one, swift play, a 74-yard run by Cordae Campbell on an off-tackle play. Gambrell's kick made it 20-16 with 4:36 to play in the game.
But the Wildcats weren't able to stop the powerful Hattiesburg offense. Hankins converted two fourth downs, on a 12-yard pass to McFarland and a 17 yard pass to Barnes, on a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Receptions of 12 yards to McFarland and another 12 yards to Barnes got it to the 1-yard-line, and Barnes carried it in from there.
For the night, Barnes ran 20 times for 82 yards and caught four passes for 46 yards. Campbell led Meridian with 126 yards on 10 carries.