Tigers end season 9-1, second seed in playoffs
The Mendenhall Tigers finished the regular season with a 9-1 record which landed them a second seed playoff berth.
The Tigers have been faced with every situation a team can endure. During the regular season this group has often found themselves on the right side of blowouts, but have also been in troubled waters and found ways to win tough games. Although the Tigers have tasted defeat only once this season the negative game served as a silver lining and teaching moment for the coaching staff. Since losing to West Lauderdale mid-October, the Tigers have become refocused, which came at the perfect time entering the playoffs.
The Tigers drew the Moss Point in the first round of the playoffs. Moss Point was the third seed of Region 8 with a record of 4-8. The Tigers were at full strength. It seemed that several of their key playmakers were now healthy and ready to contribute. Michael Simmons was an important piece of the Tiger offensive identity early in the season. Simmons had not carried a full work load since going down earlier in the season against the Purvis Tornadoes. He was healthy and ready to assist running back Zay Duckworth and the emerging Reggie McLaurin in the backfield. BoBo Walker and JunKevious Mack were also returning in full.
The duo of quarterback Christian Allen and receiver Keshun Collier has been the one constant for the Tiger offense throughout the season. The pair had connected on 13 touchdown passes prior to the game.
The Tigers entered the game as the favorite, but it was Moss Point that opened the game scoring on a blocked punt and aking a 6-0 lead. Allen and the Tigers’ offense wasted little time answering back and completed a pass to Zay Duckworth that went for nine yards and a touchdown after a well-executed drive. Coach Allen called in the bruiser, Reggie McLaurin, who delivered on a 2-point conversion to give his team the lead.
From that point forward the Mendenhall Tigers dominated the game defensively. The Tiger defense led by middle linebacker Fred Tanner only allowed 6 points through three quarters. Tanner would go on to finish the game with 10 total tackles.
The Tiger offense relied on McLaurin, who was able to pound the ball between the tackles and dominate the clock. The Tigers’ rushing and passing attack complimented each other nicely and allowed them to be productive.
The Tigers were ahead 22-6 entering the fourth quarter when Moss Point decided to make things interesting. Moss Point was able to build on some success enjoyed late in the third quarter and capitalize with an early touchdown to start the fourth. The touchdown and 2-point conversion by Moss Point made it a one score game with Mendenhall leading 22-14. Moss Point’s success on offense did little to slow the slaughter of their defense. Christian Allen answered back with a touchdown pass to his favorite target. Allen and Collier connected on their 14th touchdown pass of the season to extend the lead. Zay Duckworth rushed for the 2-point conversion to extend the lead and essentially put the game out of reach. The teams continued to trade touchdowns, with Reggie McLaurin putting the final nail in the coffin with a 10 yard rushing touchdown and 2-point conversion.
The Tigers defeated Moss Point 38-26 to advance to the second round of the playoffs. In spite of a slight defensive lapse at the end the Tigers played a complete game and seem primed to make a deep playoff run. Mendenhall at full strength showed just how dangerous they can be offensively. Four separate players found the endzone in last week’s contest and impressively none of them were named Christian Allen, who has been electric all season as the team’s signal caller. Collier, Duckworth, and McLaurin all scored touchdowns. Michael Simmons was good for two touchdowns and 87 rushing yards in his first full game back from injury. The true revelation has been the steady production from sophomore running back Reggie McLaurin, who rushed 14 times for 81 yards and a touchdown. His longest carry of the day was 10 yards and McLaurin still averaged over 5 yards a carry. He has carved out a key role for himself late in the season and will be essential to playoff success. His ability to fall forward for 5 yards will serve the Tigers well as competition stiffens in the latter rounds.
With the first round behind them the Tigers will have to travel to play the South Pike Eagles, who are 10-2 on the season. After entering the playoffs as a one seed the Eagles narrowly escaped defeat at the hands of Sumrall last week with the final score being 18-16. Tiger Nation will have to take their show on the road and pack the opposing stadium with Tiger fans this week. The Mendenhall Tigers are ready to “secure the bag” on Friday and roar their way into the third round.