By BRIAN KEYS
The Collins Tigers traveled to Oxford on Saturday to compete in the 3A Mississippi State Championship against Charleston. In the rematch of last year’s 3A final, Collins led for only 17 seconds, but those 17 seconds proved to be enough as Collins came out on top 34-32 and repeated as State Champions for the second time.
Charleston got on top early and kept the lead through most of all four quarters. With 6:56 left in the first quarter, Charleston took the lead on a 12 yard run. The conversion failed, but Charleston led 6-0. At the 4:22 mark in the first quarter, Charleston added a 2 yard TD run to extend their lead to 12-0. Detric Hawthorn scrambled into the end zone with 32 seconds left in the first quarter to close the gap to 12-6.The second quarter belonged to Charleston. At the 8:56 mark in the second, Charleston scored on a 15 yard run to extend the lead to 18-6, Charleston. With 29 seconds left in the half, Charleston scored again on a 17 yard TD run and took a 26-6 lead into the locker room over the return state champion Collins Tigers.
Both teams returned to play the third quarter with defense on their mind. Each team had a pair of turnovers in the quarter, but no touchdowns were scored. The Third quarter ended as it began, 26-6 Charleston.
The “heart attack kids” went to work early in the fourth quarter. With 11:30 left in the game, Hawthorn hooked up with Calvin Keys for a 19 yard TD pass. Hawthorn added the conversion to close the score to 26-14, Charleston. At the 8:56 mark, Hawthorn scrambled into the end zone for another Tiger score. The conversion failed, but the score was now 26-20, Charleston. Collins tied the game with 3:52 left in the regulation on a one yard score. The conversion failed, but the score was now tied at 26 all.
Charleston took most of the time on the clock to drive the length of the field and score with 28 seconds remaining. The conversion failed and with only 28 seconds, the Tigers were down 32-26. Charleston set up for a “squib” kick to avoid a long return, but Keys had other thoughts as he fielded the low kicked ball at his own 25 yard line and returned it 75 yards for the tying score. The conversion followed and Hawthorne hooked up with his brother Derrick Hawthorn in the front corner of the far end zone to score the winning points with 15 seconds remaining.
This year the Tigers dedicated their season to a fallen team member, Jabari Goudy, who passed away in July. The team wore his number, 66, on their helmets and their sleeves. Each of these thoughts was heart-warming, but none more than the final score of the game. Collins scored 34 and Charleston 32, and that total makes 66, which can be seen on every Tiger uniform representing the memory of Goudy.
The top performers for the Tigers were Hawthorn with 198 passing yards, 48 rushing yards, and 3 touchdowns, and Keys with 96 receiving yards and 2 TDs.
The Tigers had 198 passing yards and 112 rushing yards for 310 offensive yards.
Collins finished the season 15-1 with their only loss being to Hattiesburg High. For the second time in just over 10 years, the Tigers took home the 3A State Championship trophy.