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Nate Blount's five-touchdown performance lifts Brandon over Northwest Rankin, 36-28

The Bulldogs needed every bit of Blount's 271-yard, five-touchdown performance to pull out the win on senior night

BRANDON — Northwest Rankin coach Devin Cooper had almost everything he needed to pull off the upset against a championship-caliber Brandon team Friday night.


The difference between the two teams in Bulldogs’ 36-28 win over the cross-county rival Cougars was one player, and he wears No. 6 for Brandon.

Junior tailback Nate Blount went for 271 yards on 31 carries and scored all five touchdowns for the Bulldogs.

“Nate Blount’s a dude,” Brandon coach Sam Williams said. “Everybody knows that, and he’s still the dude. He’s an alpha, and he showed it tonight.”

Brandon needed every ounce of his effort.

The Bulldogs started the game like wildfire, as sensational sophomore Quincy Phillips returned the opening kickoff to the Northwest Rankin 27-yard line.

Blount’s first carry of the game started and finished the drive when he broke free around the left side for the 27-yard touchdown run to give the Bulldogs the 7-0 lead just 21 seconds into the ballgame.

They stretched that to 13-0 later in the first quarter. Quarterback Landon Varnes hit back-to-back passes of 13 and 12 yards to set up Blount’s second touchdown from 11 yards out.

After a Northwest Rankin punt on the ensuing possession, Brandon pushed their lead to 20-0 with a six-play, 88-yard touchdown drive. Varnes connected with Miller again, this time for a 50-yard pass to set the Bulldogs up with a first down at the Northwest Rankin 15-yard line. It took Blount two carries to cover that distance for his third score of the night with 10:11 left in the second quarter.

“Every aspect of the offense has to click,” Blount said. “The receivers have to do their job, the lineman gotta do their job, the quarterback and the running backs. It all came together tonight and it worked out for us.”

It looked to all the world like the Bulldogs were headed for a blowout, but the Cougars had other ideas.

On their final possession of the half, Northwest Rankin (4-5) drove 90 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown, highlighted by a 29-yard pass from Wes White to Brendan Brown and capped by a 21-yard run from Jaylinn Walker.

The Cougars got the ball to start the second half, and went right back to work with a 50-yard scoring drive. After taking over at midfield, the Cougars ran seven-straight running plays and worked their way down to the 17-yard line before White hit Brown for a strike in the right side of the end zone for the touchdown to cut the Brandon lead to 20-14.

“Super proud of the way the guys responded and clawed their way back,” Cooper said. “We’ve got a lot of fight in us, and for that reason, we’ve always got a chance.”

The Bulldogs pushed back with a 12-play, 65-yard touchdown drive capped by Blount’s fourth touchdown run, this one from just a yard out, to push the lead to 28-14 with 4:52 left in the third quarter.

But the Cougars weren’t done just yet. They responded just two minutes later with a nine-yard touchdown pass from White to Nash Sturdivant.

They pulled even at 28-28 with four minutes to go in the game on an eight-yard run from Brendan Brown.

But Brandon didn’t get to first place in Region 3-6A by laying down, and the Bulldogs had some fight left in the tank. Or at least Blount did.

The junior capped the game-winning drive with a five-yard touchdown run, and converted the two-point play himself for good measure to put the Bulldogs ahead for good.

The Cougars put together one final drive, moving from their own 37-yard line down into Brandon territory before picking up a huge pass interference call that set them up with a 1st-and-goal at the Brandon eight-yard line with 27 seconds left.

In the end, the Bulldog defense stood tall. De Aundre Washington came up with a huge sack that pushed the Cougars back to the 24-yard line, and linebacker Dysart Bell knocked away White’s last-chance pass as time expired to seal the win for Brandon.

The Bulldog defense allowed 332 yards, but most of that damage came in the passing game, and more specifically to Brown, who finished with 10 catches for 150 yards and the two touchdowns.

He also had an interception on defense just before the half.

“That guy was good,” Bell said. “They had a couple of good players and were really well-coached too, but that’s 6A football, and we live for this kind of game. Even with the all the penalties and the stuff that was going on outside, we stayed together and got that final stop, and that’s what matters to me.”

With the win, Brandon moved to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in Region 3-6A. The Bulldogs remain in a three-way tie with Warren Central and Oak Grove. The Bulldogs own the tie-breaker, however, and can clinch the top seed by making the Pearl Pirates eat dirt next weekend on the road.

The Cougars are still playoff-bound, but will likely have to travel to Ocean Springs (10-0) in the first round after the Greyhounds clinched Region 4 Friday night with a win over Gulfport.

"There was so much talent on the field," Cooper said. "When you've got a lot of star power on both sides, big plays happen. It's hard on any defense when you have the guys these two teams have on offense. Hats off to Brandon. They're a very well-coached, high-caliber team, but we are too. That's one we want, and it hurts not to get it."