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Brookhaven Panthers’ season ends at Laurel with loss, 26-22

The 2017 football season came to end for the Ole Brook Panthers Friday night in the west end zone at Laurel.

In a hard-hitting defensive game where Brookhaven spent most of four quarters laying down the law, Laurel took over the final three and one-half minutes of the game to score, recover an onside kick and score again to take a 26-22 lead and leave the Panthers with only 8 seconds on the clock. Brookhaven’s final Hail Mary fell short, and so did the season.

“Our guys played their tails off. We came up one play short in the end, and that’s what playoff football is all about,” said Brookhaven head coach Tommy Clopton after an emotional, final on-field meeting with his team. “I love them, I’m proud of them and they represented Ole Brook football well.”

It was a surprising end to a game that saw Brookhaven in complete control with seven minutes to play. Starting around midfield, the Panthers drove down into Laurel territory and gained a crucial first down with a hard count that drew the Golden Tornadoes offsides. A few plays later senior kicker Tyler Mixon, who had several big plays on the night, nailed a 39-yard field goal to give Brookhaven a 15-14 lead.

The Ole Brook defense stood tall on the ensuing Laurel possession and blew up a fake punt to take over in great field position. Four plays later, Brookhaven junior quarterback Sevante Quinn hit junior wide receiver Dorian German for a 23-yard score between the hashes and the Panthers had an eight point lead with 3:47 to go in the game.

Then the Laurel offense, which had been stagnant all night, took the game away from Brookhaven.

Starting on their own 20-yard line, the Golden Tornadoes ripped off a series of big runs and were looking at first down and goal in only six plays. Three plays later, Laurel junior quarterback Sinclair Ulmer hit senior wide receiver Brandon Gordon in the corner for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion was no good, and Laurel still trailed 22-20.

With their season depending on an onside kick, Laurel executed — the ball nailed a Brookhaven player in the chest and bounced back upfield into a pile of Laurel players.

Taking over at midfield, the Golden Tornadoes did everything wrong. Running plays went nowhere and an illegal procedure took them the wrong way. But Ulmer made the play of the game on third down when he gave up on his passing reads and scrambled left to get around the Old Brook defense and all the way down into the red zone.

With 14 seconds on the clock and timeouts still to burn, Laurel junior running back Zias Perryman powered his way into the end zone for the final score of the game.

“It was a good season, but I didn’t expect it to end like this,” said senior Panthers offensive lineman Dedric Smith. “I hate to have lost with such a great team around me, such great friends. I wanted to keep on going with my team, and I hate that I won’t be able to do it anymore.”

With the loss, Brookhaven’s season ends at 11-2. Laurel advances to face Hattiesburg in the South State game next week.