By Austin Bishop
The Winston County Journal
After 120 plays, the MHSAA Class 3A State Championship Game came down to one two-point conversion. And nobody was more ready for that moment than Louisville senior defensive tackle Malik Slaughter.
“When we came out of the time out our coach told us if we can’t get back there (to the quarterback) to keep our hands up,” Slaughter said. “I could’t get to him so I kept my hands up and made the play.”
Slaughter knocked the ball to the turf, nullifying Hazlehurst’s hopes of tying the game with just 41.7 seconds left to play and handing LHS a 30-28 win at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson and the school’s 8th MHSAA State Championship since the playoffs began in 1981.
“We were trying to fill every gap to try and make something happen,” said LHS head coach M.C. Miller. “I thought they would throw it more than run it, but we had to be ready for both. We were just in the right place at the right time.”
That wasn’t the only time the Wildcats were in the right place on Saturday.
With the game tied 14-14 late in the first half, Hazlehurst found itself facing a second and 18 from its own 2-yard line. Once again Slaughter’s opportunistic instincts paid off for the Wildcats
He knocked the pass attempt by HHS quarterback Jarvis Warner high into the air and then after one of his teammates unwittingly caught the ball eight yards deep in the end zone, Slaughter came barreling in to shove him out of the back of the end zone for a crucial safety. Louisville then took the ensuing free kick and marched in for a touchdown four plays later to take a 23-14 lead at the half.
“The line coach told us that if we saw them rocking back they were going to pass,” Slaughter said. “I saw them rocking so I went hard. They had me double-teamed but I got my hands up and knocked it up into the air. I thought the play was over, but then I saw what happened so I just ran to the first person I saw with the ball and hit him.”
It was another batted pass that led to Louisville’s second touchdown of the game.
With the Wildcats and Indians tied at 7-7 late in the first quarter, Louisville junior defensive lineman Jalon Sangster knocked a Warner pass into the air and then picked it off, returning it 10 yards to the Hazlehurst 25-yard line.
On the next play LHS quarterback Wyatt Roberts found Desmond Goss for a 25-yard touchdown strike.