LOUISVILLE – Pontotoc battled back to reach the playoffs, but the return trip ended much sooner than hoped.
The Warriors were unable to hold off a late rally by Louisville and lost a 2-overtime heartbreaker by a score of 28-21 in Round 1 of MHSAA Class 4A playoffs on Friday.
Pontotoc (8-3), the third seed in Region 1-4A, was eliminated in the first round last year by Vicksburg (30-21). The Warriors last advanced to Round 2 in 2003.
“I’m not disappointed in the effort, just in the outcome,” said Pontotoc head coach Charlie Dampeer, who took over the program after a 1-9 finish in 2006 and has led it to back-to-back playoff appearances.
“We had every chance to win the ballgame. It was back and forth, and we just couldn’t get it done in the end. They made one more play than we did.”
Louisville (8-4), the second seed in Region 4-4A, made the plays early, scoring on its first possession – driving 71 yards in 12 plays and scoring on a 1-yard run by quarterback Chris Wraggs. However, the extra point was blocked by Pontotoc’s Jake Smithey.
The Wildcats were held scoreless the remainder of the half.
Pontotoc took the lead with a 10-play, 91- yard drive, boosted by big runs by Maurice Berry and Randall Crayton. The drive ended with a fumble recovery by quarterback Canden Dallas in the end zone for the score with 4:48 remaining in the first half.
Crayton, a junior, finished with 14 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown.
The Warriors forced Louisville to punt on its next possession, and gained good field position after the return by Rashad Dixon to Louisville’s 43. Nine plays later, Dallas scored on a quarterback draw from 20 yards out with two seconds remaining in the first half.
Michael Bounds connected on his second PAT to give the Warriors a 14-6 advantage at the half.
“We got up on them pretty good, ” said Dallas, who completed 8 of 14 passes for 50 yards and had 17 carries for 58 yards and two TDs. “But then we let them get a couple of big plays and they got the momentum and put points on the board.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Louisville got the points it needed to stay in it when it drove 91 yards and finished with a 16-yard scoring pass from Wraggs to C.J. Bates with 5:44 remaining in the contest. The Wildcats tied it at 14-all on a two-point conversion pass from Wraggs to Zan Carter.
Louisville had a chance to win in regulation but Zach McGarr’s 22-yard field goal attempt missed wide left as time expired.
Pontotoc, playing is first overtime series of the season, scored onits first possession with a 6-yard run by Crayton. And Louisville tied it again with a 9-yard pass from Wraggs to Markese Triplett.
Louisville scored on its possession in the second overtime series, then stopped Pontotoc when a pass under pressure by Dallas – scrambling to his right on a play-action attempt – was deflected and picked off at the goal line by Bates.
“It was an unbelieveable way to finish the game,” said Louisville head coach Brad Peterson, who guided his squad to state titles the past two seasons in Class 3A.