Jags win third state championship in five years
Published 2:53 pm Friday, December 3, 2021
It was not Jefferson Davis County’s Mr. Football Malcom Hartzog who had a phenomenal day in the Jaguars 42-10 win over Amory. Demarrio Booth Jr. scored four touchdowns and had an interception for Jefferson Davis as they dominated the MHSAA Class 3A State Championship.
Booth was named the game’s MVP as he led the Jaguars to its third state championship in five seasons. Jefferson Davis County previously won titles in 2017 and 2019.
Jaguars Head Coach Lance Mancuso said Booth, who finished the game with 205 rushing yards, is a great kid on and off the field. In the classroom, he is respectful and excels academically. On the field, he was a burst of speed and agility the Panthers had no answer for. “All season he has been our compliment to Malcom (Hartzog),” Mancuso said. “Amory came in here with one idea, to stop Malcom. I knew Booth would have a big day. It shows how talented he is.”
Jefferson Davis County had a dream start to the game as Amory fumbled the football two plays into its opening drive. Marcus Ross scooped the ball up and started running for the endzone. Ross said he saw nothing but green turf between him and the golden endzone. He stumbled at about the 30 and went down at the 26-yard-line, setting up a short drive for the Jaguars with 11:07 left in the first quarter.
“I didn’t see anything but daylight,” Ross said. “We scored on the drive and I’m glad we got the win. I wanted to score so bad. It’s all good though. We got the W and at the end. That play picked up momentum. We came out ready to play early.”
Four run plays and 26 yards later, Malcolm Hartzog punched in a one-yard rush with 9:42 left in the first quarter. Hartzog made a huge catch on the Jaguars next possession as he reeled in a 37-yard pass to set up a 44-yard rushing touchdown by Demarrio Booth Jr the next play to finish a 91 yard scoring drive for the Jaguars. Hartzog punched in a two-point conversion on a wild hog rush to make it 14-0.
Amory did respond as Panther quarterback Jatarian Ware connected with Cameron Haynes down the right sideline for a 62-yard touchdown. They made the field goal to cut the Jaguars lead to 14-7 with 3:34 left in the first quarter.
Jefferson Davis made its first mistake of the game when the Jaguars fumbled a ball at the 17-yard line. Amory’s Nathaniel Walker pounced on the football. The Jaguars defense held strong and forced a punt.
Booth Jr. hit paydirt again as split the middle of the defense and scampered 61-yards for a touchdown to cap off an 82 yard drive. Jefferson Davis added a two-point conversion to go up 22-7. The Jaguars were well on their way to winning its 10th straight game of the season. Jefferson Davis started out the season with a four game losing streak. They didn’t win their first game until Oct. 1, but the team kept belief and it carried them into the playoffs and all the way to Hattiesburg. Booth said the coaches, players and God made the team better over the season. “When the year started everyone doubted us and did not think we would make it here,” Booth said. “We kept pushing this season. The coaches kept pushing and pushing us. We never gave up.”
Amory put itself in scoring position and had a chance to cut the game back to a one possession ball game as they worked their way down the field to the 2-yard line. A false start penalty backed them up five yards to alleviate pressure on the Jaguars defense.
The next two plays, Jefferson Davis County held strong and forced a 38-yard field goal which the Panthers made to make it 22-10 with 6:53 left in the half. Mancusso said it was a crucial stop. Amory was held to 294 total yards in the game and Ross made seven total tackles.
“We have relied heavily on our defense all year,” Mancusso said. “I can’t say enough about Ross at Middle Linebacker. He is a great leader and player.”
Jefferson Davis County opened the second half with a nine play, 67-yard scoring drive. Hartzog flashed into the endzone on a 19-yard rush to the right side. After adding a two-point conversion, Jefferson Davis County took a 20 point lead with 8:27 left in the third quarter.
Booth would score for a third time as he made a few Panther tacklers miss on a 32-yard rushing touchdown. Jefferson Davis County failed to convert the two-point conversion and led 36-10 with 3:45 left in the third quarter.
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His fourth touchdown of the day came with 2:25 left in the third quarter. He made the interception to set up the scoring drive. Neither team scored in the fourth quarter of play. Mancuso won his ninth MHSAA title with the win. Five of those titles came from Bassfield, one came from Seminary and his third came with the Jaguars Friday. This season had a short losing streak and ended with a long win streak to capture that third title.
“It was just a matter of keeping belief in ourselves,” Mancuso said. “We had to get things going in the right direction and we did.”
By Hunter Cloud