The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Sports - BY PATRICK MAGEE


Fri­day night was 15 years in the mak­ing and oh so sweet for the St. Martin Yel­low Jack­ets.

St. Martin thumped arch ri­val D’Iberville 48-28 Fri­day night for the Yel­low Jack­ets’ first vic­tory over the War­riors since 2003. The win also clinched a spot in the Class 6A play­offs for St. Martin and ended what had been a promis­ing sea­son for D’Iberville.

“We’ve been talk­ing about this day since eighth grade,” St. Martin se­nior of­fen­sive tackle Bran­don Cun­ning­ham said. “We’re the first class to do it in 15 years … 15 years.”

St. Martin im­proved to 7-4 over­all and 4-3 in Re­gion 4-6A. As the No. 4 seed in the re­gion, the Yel­low Jack­ets will travel to face Bran­don (11-1) in the first round of the Class 6A South State play­offs.

D’Iberville’s sea­son ends at 5-5 and 3-4.

Fri­day night’s vic­tory also marked the first time in the his­tory of St. Martin foot­ball that the team has clinched back-to-back post­sea­son bids.

For St. Martin head coach Ed­die Wayne White­head, it was a sat­is­fy­ing fin­ish to a sea­son that in­cluded heart-break­ing losses to Gulf­port, Har­ri­son Cen­tral and Ocean Springs. The play­ers danced and em­braced their head coach as they gath­ered in the end zone to cel­e­brate the big win.

“It’s been a long, long time,” White­head said of fi­nally tak­ing down D’Iberville. “I was (at D’Iberville as an as­sis­tant) for 20 years. A lot of these kids, I coached in youth ball. It’s big be­ing on the other side, to get a win. It’s huge for our com­mu­nity and huge for our team.”

As has been the case for much of the sea­son, sev­eral St. Martin play­ers made an im­pact on spe­cial teams and of­fense. But no Yel­low Jacket was more de­ter­mined than se­nior run­ning back Ham

McGee, who fin­ished with 16 car­ries for 174 yards and two touch­downs.

McGee left the game for a mo­ment with an in­jury late in the sec­ond quar­ter, but there was no keep­ing him off the field with a chance to take down D’Iberville for the first time in his ca­reer.

“I knew I was go­ing back in,” McGee said. “There was too much on the line for me to not be in.”

The se­nior was part of a po­tent rush­ing at­tack that in­cluded 12 car­ries for 82 yards and three touch­downs from se­nior quar­ter­back Mileon Gra­ham. Ju­nior run­ning back Jay McGee, Ham’s brother, also ran seven times for 72 yards and a touch­down.

“We just ran at them and pounded it the whole game,” Ham McGee said.

St. Martin has had prob­lems with mak­ing cru­cial mis­takes in im­por­tant sit­u­a­tions this year, and it ap­peared to be more of the same when Jay McGee ripped off a 40-yard run but was stripped of the ball by Ray­mond Lias at the D’Iberville 1 early in the third quar­ter. The War­riors re­cov­ered the ball in the end zone.

How­ever, a 70-yard punt re­turn for a touch­down by se­nior Eli­jah Wash­ing­ton pro­vided the boost the Yel­low Jack­ets needed and pushed their lead to 34-14 with 9:27 left in the third quar­ter.

It was Wash­ing­ton’s eighth touch­down of the sea­son and his fourth on ei­ther a punt re­turn or kick­off re­turn.

“He’s a per­fect player,” Ham McGee said. “Every time you need him, he comes through. Every time. He can make some­thing out of noth­ing.”

D’Iberville was miss­ing its top run­ning back in se­nior Mar­quis Whit­ley, who sat out with an in­jury. He had 808 yards and eight touch­downs this sea­son and his ab­sence was ob­vi­ous on Fri­day, put­ting more pres­sure on ju­nior quar­ter­back Jaden Wal­ley to lead the way.

Wal­ley ran 26 times for 142 yards and two touch­downs. He also com­pleted seven of 14 passes for 113 yards and two touch­downs — both to his brother, Justin.

Much of Wal­ley’s pro­duc­tion on the ground came in the first half.

“Wal­ley is such a great player,” White­head said. “He got us early on first down when they kept run­ning the sneak. In the sec­ond half, we did a bet­ter job of con­tain­ing him, kind of keep­ing him bot­tled up.”

A cru­cial point in the game came in the sec­ond quar­ter when D’iberville had back-to-back fum­bles on of­fense that were re­cov­ered by the Yel­low Jack­ets, al­low­ing St. Martin to take a 27-14 lead at the half.

With a cou­ple of sig­nif­i­cant goals reached Fri­day night, the next mission for St. Martin is to prove it can win in the post­sea­son af­ter tak­ing a 55-14 beat­ing at Pearl in the first round a year ago.

“I was kind of dis­ap­pointed last year,” Ham McGee said. “I only ran the ball once (against Pearl) be­cause of turf toe. This year, I don’t care who it is. We’re go­ing to go give it to them. They’re go­ing to know about the

St. Martin Yel­low Jack­ets.”

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @CoastCover­age.

PATRICK MAGEE pmagee@sun­her­

St. Martin de­fen­sive end Alvin Cooks cel­e­brates.

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