CLINTON — East Feliciana coach Cedric Anderson preaches every day in practice about the importance of never giving up and never giving in.

His team took the lesson to heart, bouncing back from a halftime deficit to defeat West Feliciana 26-20 in the season opener for both teams Friday.

“We tell them every day to fight and to give effort on every play and always give yourself a chance,” Anderson said. “It makes up for mistakes, and good things will eventually happen.”

Trailing 14-12 at halftime, the Class 2A Tigers had two key fumble recoveries in the fourth quarter, enabling them to triumph over the Class 3A Saints.

One fumble recovery by Lamond Perry kept a drive going with the score knotted at 20. But the Tigers failed on fourth-and-goal and turned the ball over to the Saints at their 1-yard line. But on the next play, East Feliciana defensive back Brandon Jones jumped on a bobbled snap in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 6:11 remaining, giving the home team a lead it held until the end.

West Feliciana fullback and middle linebacker Hunter Smith recovered a fumble and was an offensive workhorse for the Saints, rushing for 143 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown as the Saints kept it on the ground for much of the game and totaled 253 yards.

East Feliciana rushed for 125 yards, and Kavon Moore completed 9 of 18 passes for 148 yards and two TDs.

The Tigers jumped on the scoreboard first when Moore hit Chris Chaney in the flat for a 17-yard TD. The point-after run failed, and East Feliciana led 6-0.

The Saints came back on the next series with a four-play, 60-yard drive, capped by a 26-yard scamper by quarterback Devon Harris. Treyshawn Cummings ran in for the PAT and an 8-6 West Feliciana lead.

East Feliciana took the lead in the second quarter when running back Leslie Taylor broke up the middle for a 46-yard TD at the 5:30 mark. The two-point run attempt failed, and the home team led 12-8.

The next series featured seven runs by Smith, who gained 74 yards including a 5-yard push in the middle of the Tigers defense for the go-ahead score. The point-after failed, and the Saints carried a 14-12 lead into halftime.

The Tigers took a 20-14 lead midway through the third quarter when Moore completed a 5-yard pass to Justin Beckwith and Treylan Dunn caught the two-point conversion pass from Moore.

West Feliciana’s R.J. Harris intercepted a Moore pass and returned it to the EF 14 early in the fourth. Running back Josh Morrison raced around right end for the TD and after the missed two-point attempt, it was anybody’s ballgame at 20-20 with 10:23 remaining.

The Saints played without starting quarterback Derrick Turner and defensive back Darius Davis and starting fullback Ronald Sims.

“I’m not going to make any excuses: They played better than us tonight. That’s a good team we played and they deserved the win,” West Feliciana coach Robb Odom said.