By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Mississippi Hound Dogs were on the brink of winning their inaugural game on Saturday night before disaster struck.
And it struck more than once.
The Hound Dogs saw an 11-point lead evaporate in the final 71⁄2 minutes, losing 35-30 to the visiting Rome (Ga.) Rampage before a lively crowd of 2,387 at the BancorpSouth Arena.
Rome scored two touchdowns and a safety after the home team had taken a 30-19 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The home team couldn’t play keepaway, as three of their final six offensive plays were giveaways – two fumbled snaps and a safety.
“Tonight was just not a good night for us,” said the Hound Dogs’ Martino Theus, who lost in his debut as a head coach. “We’re going to get back to work, regroup and reload.”
The game began in promising fashion, as the Hound Dogs sprinted to a 13-0 lead after starting twice with a short field.
The Rampage seemed out of sync for most of the first half, but quarterback Jamaris Walden kept his team in the game with his legs until he and his teammates finally began to click.
Walden finished the game with two touchdown runs (1, 6) and three scoring throws to Jeff Phillips (19, 15, 10), including the game-winner with 38.5 seconds left.
Backup Hound Dogs quarterback Jami Boland (Nettleton, ICC) threw a pair of touchdowns, a 29-yarder to Reggie Ellis in the first half and a 20-yarder to James Patterson early in the fourth quarter. Starter Richard McFadden (Amory) scored the first TD in team history on a 2-yard run to cap the team’s first series.
“I hate that all the fans who turned out couldn’t see a win,” Boland said. “We felt good about the support we got tonight.”
The Hound Dogs are on the road for games at Florida (Friday) and Lakeland (March 17) before a return engagement with the Rampage here on March 23.