Zach Wilcke passed for two touchdown and added two rushing touchdowns as Hernando (3-5, 1-2 6A) picked up its first district win 35-14 against rival Lewisburg.
The Tigers scored 21 points in the first half, then added 14 more in the second half. The defense limited the Patriots to just a pair of touchdowns, despite a strong air attack from Lewisburg quarterback Gunner Gilmore, who had a pair of passing touchdowns, and two missed field goal opportunities by kicker Zach Dennie.
“I thought we played really good in the first half, but we lost a little focus in the second half,” said Hernando Coach Will Wolfe.
Wolfe said he was pleased with the team’s overall effort though and hopes the win will give Hernando some momentum heading in to next week’s away game against DeSoto Central.
“We play a tough schedule,” Wolfe said. “The kids have kept it together and played hard. If we keep that focus, we are going to be tough to beat.”
Wilcke got Hernando on the board first, completing a 36-yard pass to Henry Smith for the touchdown with 8:41 to play, then scored again on their next possession after Wilcke connected with a 39-yard pass to Jalen Smith to make it 14-0 with 2:28 to play.
Lewisburg faked a punt on fourth down and kicker Zach Dennie scrambled to give the Patriots a 1st and 10 on the Tigers’s 49-yard line. Lewisburg then fumbled the ball which was recovered by Hernando to give the Tigers a 1st and 10 on their own 48.
Wilcke’s pass was complete to Henry Smith, but Smith coughed the ball up with :27 seconds left in the first to give the Patriots another shot with 1st and 10 on the 47-yard line. Lewisburg was not able to capitalize on the turnover though and were forced to punt.
Hernando would go up 21-0 after a big 38-yard run by Andrew Wood got the Tigers deep into Patriot’s territory to the 22 yard line. Wood then ran it in the 22 yards for the score with 5:04 left in the second quarter.
Lewisburg took over on their own 24-yard line following another excellent kick by Jackson Uselton, who kept the Patriots from gaining good starting position all night.
Gilmore moved the team downfield gaining steady yardage with passes to Cole McKinney, Graycen Crumbley, and some legwork on short runs by DJ Green. A face mask penalty against Hernando gave Lewisburg a 1st and 10 at the Tigers 15-yard line, but Gilmore’s pass intended for Crumbley fell incomplete to bring up 4th and 17 on the Hernando 14-yard line.
Lewisburg Head Coach Dustin Hectorn tried for three points, but kicker Zack Dennie missed a 24-yard field goal attempt with 2:48 left in the half.
The Patriots got the ball back after Hernando was forced to punt with :24 seconds left in the half, but Gilmore was hauled down to end the first half with Hernando leading 21-0.
Hernando kicked off to Lewisburg to start the second half, but once again Uselton got the ball into the end zone and the Patriots found themselves starting on the 20-yard line.
Gilmore connected on a 16-yard pass to Crumbley to move the ball to the 36-yard line, then completed another pass for seven yards. Green got the Patriots a first down with a run to the 45-yard line. A pass interference penalty against Hernando gave Lewisburg a 1st down on the Tiger’s 22-yard line. After no gain by Green, Gilmore’s next two passes fell incomplete to Crumbley to make it fourth down.
Hector sent Dennie out for another try at three, but the kicker’s 31-yard field goal attempt missed with 7:41 to play.
Hernando punted on its next possession, but Uselton’s kick put Lewisburg on its own 20-yard line to start their drive. Gilmore completed a pass to Crumbley for 11 yards to give the Patriots 1st and 10 on their own 31 yard-line line, then McKinney ran one down the field for 55 yards to give Lewisburg a 1st down on the Hernando 14-yard line.
Gilmore found JD Green for a 14-yard touchdown pass then converted for two points to get the Patriots on the board 21-8 with 3:17 left to play in the third quarter.
Hernando answered back on its next possession. Starting on their own 25-yard line, Wilcke drove the team 74 yards downfield then ran the ball in on a quarterback keeper with :47 seconds left to play to put the Tigers up 21-8 after Uselton added the extra point.
Lewisburg turned the ball over on downs on their next possession after Gilmore’s pass fell incomplete on 4th and 5 on the Tigers 40 yard line.
Hernando took advantage of the good field position as Wilcke got them to the Patriot’s 12-yard line then ran it in for a touchdown to give the Tigers a commanding 35-8 lead with10:34 left to play in the fourth quarter.
Lewisburg punted from their own 9-yard line on their next possession to give Hernando excellent position on the 39-yard line. On 2nd and 4, Wilcke found Eli Mahburn for what appeared to be a 33-yard Hernando touchdown, but the play was called back as the Tigers were called for on an illegal man downfield penalty. Hernando ended up turning the ball over on downs on the Lewisburg 33-yard line.
Lewisburg found the end zone one last time on the night as Gilmore fired to JD Green with 7:03 left to play. The Patriot’s 2-point conversion attempt was no good though to make it 35-14, which is where it stayed after the two teams turned it over on downs on their final possessions. Hernando punted with three seconds remaining on the clock, but Gilmore’s pass was intercepted by Keon Neely as the clock expired to end the game.
Wolfe praised his team’s defensive effort along with Uselton, who was perfect on the night kicking the PAT and providing long punts that sailed into the end zone.
“I thought our defense played really well tonight,” Wolfe said. “Coach (Steven) McCann does a good job with them. I wish we had come out and finished a lot sooner, but they did a really good job. And Jackson Uselton did a great job keeping the ball in the end zone the whole night.”
Hernando will next face DeSoto Central on the road in Southaven, while Lewisburg (1-5) will be home against South Panola.