There is not much more that can be said about the annual Little Brown Jug game that has not been said before by my peers and famed writers before me. Historically Laurel holds the lead over Hattiesburg, however, the Tigers currently hold five-straight regular-season wins over the Tornadoes. Our Laurel Impact sports editor James Pugh wrote about the 98th meeting between these two teams and you can find that story here.
I want to take a different approach as we are mere hours away from Mississippi's best rivalry game and revisit arguably the best game in Hattiesburg vs. Laurel history.
The year was 2015. Laurel had just come fresh off of a 5A State Championship victory one season prior and opened up their 2015 season with a shutout victory over Quitman. Hattiesburg made the move from 6A to 5A in 2015. The TIgers handled Laurel handily in 2014 43-26 despite a six-win season.
It seemed like 2015 had more on the line now that both teams were in 5A football. For 44 minutes, the Tornadoes made a resounding statement who the king was in 5A.
But games are not won in 44 minutes.
Laurel struck quickly driving down the field in four minutes behind now Tulane quarterback Keon Howard finding Dante Robinson on an 11-yard touchdown pass. Hattiesburg could not respond. Before anyone could blink Howard and the Tornadoes were up 25-0.
Before the clock struck zero to end the first half, Julian Conner found Fabian Franklin for a score. That tightened the gap to 25-6. Head coach Tony Vance could only stress in the locker room that there were still two quarters to play, trying desperately to motivate his team during the break.
All seemed to slow down in the third quarter until just over four minutes remaining, when Laurel punched in another touchdown, seemingly killing any chance of a comeback.
Boy were the fans who stayed in for a treat.
With just 3:57 remaining in the game, Conner found Murphy on a 24-yard pass for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion brought the score to 32-14. Still, there was not much sweat from the brow of Laurel head coach Todd Breland as he had already pulled most of his starters.
Two and a half minutes later, Conner again found his receiver. This time Makel Williams from nine-yards out, cutting the lead to 32-22 with 1:12 remaining.
At this point, Breland rushed his starters out, trying to stop the bleeding.
The resilient Tigers recovered the onside kick. Seconds later, Conner eyed Murphy for a 44-yard touchdown. The two-point try was unsuccessful, although the lead had been cut to 32-28.
Vance's Tigers tried for another onside kick, however, it did not make it the required 10 yards. The Tornadoes looked to have escaped.
Sigmund Lewis came up with arguably the biggest play on defense, landing on a Laurel fumble, giving Hattiesburg the shot of a lifetime. In just three plays, Conner found Murphy for the go-ahead score with 39 seconds remaining on the clock to go up 34-32.
That score would be the final in a game that should go down as the best comeback in Little Brown Jug history.
Vance told his players at halftime that they were about to be a part of something special. What he did not know is that everyone in the stadium and listening on the radio would be a part of something special.