Winona football coach Joey Tompkins said his team generally starts slow but finishes strong.
The Tigers followed that pattern once again as Noah Durham kicked a 19-yard field goal on the last play of the game to take a 52-49 win over Senatobia in the third round of the Class 3A playoffs on Friday night.
The Tigers improve to 8-1 on the season and will host Amory on Friday night in a third-round contest.
“I was proud of our kids, they never quit,” Tompkins said. “We got down early but battled back. We seem to make everything hard. We played well enough on offense to win the game. We weren’t very good on defense, but it’s been like that all year. We’ve got to play better on that side of the football. But I thought we did enough to win, and that’s all that really matters this time of the year.”
The game wasn’t without some drama in the final minute. The Tigers got the ball with less than three minutes on the clock and drove inside the Senatobia five-yard-line. Without any timeouts, the Tigers ran a play with 17 seconds left but took a loss on the play and it appeared as if time ran out before Winona was able to spike the football.
“We called a play and I actually called the wrong play,” Tompkins said. “They hit us for a loss and I don’t know what happened. We weren’t able to get up and the officials sort of fumbled around with the ball. But we got set and spiked it but time ran out on the clock. But there was time left on the clock and everybody saw it. They talked about it and put time back on the clock and we kicked the field goal to win it.”
The Tigers got off to a slow start once again as Senatobia got the passing game going early, scoring on passes of 16 and 11 yards in the first quarter to take an early 14-0 lead.
The Tigers finally got going on offense as Deriaun Townsend scored on a 31-yard run. Noah Durham booted the PAT, and the Tigers cut the lead to 14-7.
The Tigers tied the game up midway through the second quarter as Chase Richardson scored on a 7-yard run to tie the game at 14-14.
“We started out really slow once again and got down by 14 really quick,” Tompkins said. “It’s been like that all year. We have started slow and it takes us a while to get into the flow of the game.”
But just when it seemed like Winona was taking control of the game, Senatobia scored on a 60-yard run to go up 21-14.
The Tigers and Townsend answered back as the junior running back scored on a one-yard run to send the game into the half tied at 21-21.
“We felt pretty good that we were tied at the half after going down 14-0,” Tompkins said. “We normally play our best football in the fourth quarter. Our kids have a lot of confidence in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter.”
Winona came out in the second half and appeared to take control of the game as Townsend scored on a 59-yard run. Durham’s PAT gave the Tigers a 28-21 lead.
Dadarion Small then intercepted a pass and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown. Durham’s PAT was good, and Winona held a 35-21 lead midway through the third.
But just when it seemed like Winona was taking control, Senatobia answered with an 11-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 35-28.
The Tigers gave the ball right back when they fumbled the snap on a punt and gave Senatobia the ball on their own one. The Warriors punched it in to tie the game at 35-35.
The Tigers then hit the big play as Richardson hit Robert McMath on a 79-yard touchdown pass. Durham’s PAT gave the Tigers a 42-35 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“Chase is starting to play better,” Tompkins said. “He made some really good throws. It’s just a matter of reps. His first game was against Madison Central and that’s a tough start. Then we were off two weeks and he didn’t play well against Humphreys. Then we were in quarantine last week and he didn’t play well last week. It just comes down to game reps. There’s no substitute for game reps. He’s finally starting to get his feet under him.”
Senatobia tied the game back at 42 when Jordan Osborn scored on a 16-yard run.
The Tigers took the lead back as Richardson hit Small on a 39-yard touchdown pass. Durham’s PAT gave Winona a 49-42 lead.
But the Warriors answered once again as Osborn scored on a 52-yard run to tie the game at 49-49 with three minutes left to go in the game.
The Tigers had 482 yards of offense with 286 rushing and 196 passing. Richardson had his best game as the freshman was 10-of-13 passing with two TDs. Townsend continued his strong season with 208 yards on 24 carries and two TDS. Danarius Robinson had 42 yards rushing on eight carries while Richardson had 36 yards and two TDS on 11 carries. McMath had his best game of the season with 144 yards on four catches and two TDs. Robert Cross had 39 yards on two catches.
The Tigers will have their hands full this week as they host Amory, who enters the game with a 9-1 record.
Amory’s only loss is a 31-10 setback to New Albany. They have wins over Caledonia (44-33), Aberdeen (47-0), Ripley (21-14), Kossuth (37-29), Alcorn Central (48-0), Nettleton (14-0), Booneville (31-20), Belmont (31-13) and Choctaw County (27-26).
“They are a good football team,” Tompkins said. “They are led by their quarterback. He’s a real shifty kid and throws the ball well. They have two really good receivers and a good running back with a good blood line. His dad id Rufus French. And they aren’t real impressive looking on defense but they are scrappy and do a lot of things to confuse the offensive line.”