By David Wheeler/Special to the NEMS Daily Journal
NETTLETON – D. J. Parker of the Nettleton Tigers was suppose to run a simple out route.
But the senior saw the Mantachie Mustangs’ corner getting ready to sit down on the cut.
So Parker kept running, and quarterback Dakota Cruber recognized the situation, hitting his teammate to complete a 60-yard touchdown with 3 minutes to play.
With Parker’s extra point, that was the winning margin Friday as Nettleton held on – barely – to defeat Mantachie 28-27 in a Division 2-3A contest.
“That was a big play at the end that D. J. made,” Nettleton head coach Mike Scott said. “He saw he had the guy beat, and Cruber delivered the ball perfectly.
“If we can win next week, we’re in the third spot.”
Both Scott and Mantachie veteran head coach Lynn Moore would not get too far ahead of themselves with scenarios with one week left in the Class 3A regular season. But Nettleton (2-8, 2-2) at Mooreville certainly has implications, while Mantachie (5-5, 2-2) is at likely No. 2 seed Water Valley.
After a Mantachie rally, both teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 21-21.
The Tigers turned the ball over on downs twice in the period before lightning struck for them. The very first play following a Mantachie punt, Cruber found Parker for their score, giving Nettleton a 28-21 lead.
The Mustangs responded with a 7-play, 80-yard drive. The series included a 31-yard completion to Nick Burns before quarterback Dustin Carrell found Trent Ellis for an 11-yard score with 27 seconds to play.
But the potential tying kick was drilled into the line, and the attempted onside kickoff was handled easily by the Tigers.
“One play didn’t do it to us,” Moore said. “The heart and the fight we showed to come back and make this a game was great.
“I hope we can learn some lesson out of this loss.”
Mantachie appeared ready to teach Nettleton a lesson, scoring on the opening possession on a 3-yard run by Carrell.
Nettleton responded in the second period with three touchdowns. Cruber had TDs on runs of 25 and 39 yards, and hit Levert Jernigan for a 64-yard score for a 21-6 halftime lead.
Then the Mustangs scored twice in the third quarter on a 2-yard run by Hunter Holland and a 10-yard dash by Carrell.