Pooching pays off.
In its game Friday night against Helen Cox at Hoss Memtsas Stadium, the Higgins Hurricanes used the strategy of an onside pooch-type kickoff and twice recovered the ball. The final one came with 6:07 left in the game and helped Higgins take a 27-20 victory.
“It was a check-with-me with the kicker, Bryan Martinez,” first-year Higgins coach Craig Laborde said. “We looked at how they lined up, and if they had their guys back, we’d kick it to a spot. If they fall on it at the 25, that’s OK.”
The final such kickoff came after the Hurricanes (2-4, 1-0 District 8-5A) scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 56-yard catch and run by running back Ray’Delle Jones, who caught a swing pass from quarterback Daniel White. That gave Higgins a 24-20 lead.
However, Cox (1-5) fought back all game and appeared to have the momentum when quarterback Dion Ray misfired on a fourth-and-5 pass at the Cougars 44, preceding Jones’ run.
Laborde gambled rather than give the ball back to Cox and Ray. Martinez pooched it to the 23, and running back Dwayne Cooper recovered at the 21. That set up a 20-yard field goal by Martinez with 4:05 left.
Ray was hit and fumbled with 1:25 left, and the ball was recovered by Higgins’ Rayshad Nichols, sealing the victory.
“Our turnovers were the key to the game,” said Cox coach Willie Brooks, his team losing the ball twice on the pooch kickoff and twice to interceptions. “Not to make excuses, but both our top running backs are out injured, as well as one of our starting receivers. We got banged up last week against Karr.”
Still, the Cougars surged ahead 20-17 when Ray led them on a 61-yard drive that ended with Ea’mon Davis’ 2-yard run at 10:25 of the fourth quarter.
Martinez had given Higgins the lead with a 24-yard field goal with 2:47 left in the third when it drove from its 35 to the Cox 10 after a punt.
Cox tied the score at 14 only 18 seconds into the second half when White fumbled, the Cougars’ Brian James recovered at the Higgins 27 and Ray passed to Jamal Cooper on the next play. He passed to Ray for the two-point conversion.
Higgins took a 14-6 halftime lead on the strength of a long drive and by taking advantage of an opportunity that followed.
The Hurricanes’ first touchdown came after Cox squandered one. After a blocked punt by Arlington Jamison, the Cougars had first down at the Higgins 27 and reached the 12 but didn’t score.
Higgins then marched 88 yards. White teamed with Melvin Frazier for a 20-yard touchdown pass, capping a 10-play drive and giving Higgins a 6-0 lead at 10:24 of the second quarter.
Martinez then pooched the kickoff, and it was fumbled by Cox’s Deonte’ Sylvien. Higgins’ Deondre Thompson recovered at the Cougars 44.
White capped the seven-play drive with a 3-yard keeper up the middle, then passed to Davion Sullivan for the 2-point conversion and a 14-0 margin.
The Cougars stayed in the game by answering that score. That was set up by a pooch kick that didn’t go Higgins’ way this time.
Cox got the ball at its 34. On second-and-31 from the Cox 37, Ray completed a 48-yard pass to Charles to the Higgins 15. On the next play, he found Jamy’es Davis in the right corner of the end zone for the score, bringing the Cougars to 14-6 at 3:29.