GREENVILLE – J.L. Mann remembered last year’s heartbreaking loss to T.L. Hanna all too well Friday night. Last season in Anderson, the Patriots were clinging to a 35-28 lead in the final minutes before Jaylon Boles ran for a touchdown to force overtime. In the second overtime, Boles’ fourth touchdown of the game was a walk-off winner for the Yellow Jackets.
In Friday’s Region I-5A showdown between No. 4 Hanna and No. 10 Mann, the Patriots seemed bound and determined to not allow Boles to beat them again. Of Boles’ seven carries, his longest went for three yards.
Unfortunately for Mann, playing defense against Hanna’s wing-T offense is kind of like playing Whac-A-Mole. If you concentrate too much on striking down the same Yellow Jacket over and over, there are five more ready to pop up out of nowhere and sting you.
On Friday night, nobody stung as deep or as often as KD Patterson. The junior eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season as he carried 19 times for 222 yards and SIX touchdowns in Hanna’s 56-35 win at Slaton Field. Leading a rushing offense that was averaging 8.9 yards per carry as a team entering Friday night, Patterson now has 91 carries for 1,095 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.
“KD’s humble and he’s grounded. He doesn’t get a big head and he’s just fun to be around,” Hanna coach Jason Tone said. “As long as he can remain humble and keep working, the sky’s the limit for that young man.
“Kudos to our offensive line for opening up those holes. We’ve got some special young men at T.L. Hanna and I’m so proud to be their coach.”
For three-and-a-half quarters Friday, this game lived up to all the hype a top 10 matchup deserves. The teams kept trading score-for-score until the fourth quarter.
It was one of those games where it felt like the first team to lose a turnover – or have to punt – would be in trouble. We found out in the second quarter when Hanna’s Cam Strong had an interception near midfield. On the very next play, Patterson made his best run of the night.
Taking kind of a jet sweep handoff, Patterson kept running toward the sideline before finally being able to turn the corner and raced down the right sideline for a 49-yard touchdown. That gave the Yellow Jackets (7-1, 2-0) their first lead, but Mann (6-2, 1-1) answered on its ensuing drive to send the game into halftime all tied up at 21-21.
“It was punch, counterpunch, punch, counterpunch, and our kids didn’t flinch,” Tone said. “I’m extremely proud of them.”
Hanna became the first team to punt after its opening drive of the second half, but the Patriots couldn’t take advantage. After an inside screen was bobbled, Hanna linebacker Khilon Groves grabbed the ball and took two steps to the end zone for a five-yard pick-six.
“The turnovers hyped everybody up. It made us want to keep going no matter what,” Patterson said. “It was a close game, but we just had to keep going harder every time.”
Once again, Mann was unfazed as an 83-yard drive was capped by Ethan Anderson’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Keyshun Henderson to tie the game 28-28 with 5:07 left in the third quarter.
Antonio Hatton came up with a long kickoff return that set Hanna up at the Mann 14-yard line. Five plays – including a fourth-down conversion – later, Patterson scored from two yards out to give Hanna the lead for good.
Following the only three-and-out for either team all night by Mann, Hanna took the game’s first two-score lead when Josh Donald ran for a four-yard touchdown with 10:24 left.
Patterson put the finishing touches on his stellar night with two more touchdowns to close out the scoring. It wasn’t just the fact that he had six touchdowns, it was the situation of many as well.
On the first one, Hanna was facing a 3rd-and-11 when he took an inside handoff right up the middle for a 13-yard score. Each of the last two also came on third-down runs of 35 and 15 yards, respectively.
For the Yellow Jackets, that’s one road showdown down and one to go. Hanna travels to Hillcrest next Friday to take on the unbeaten and second-ranked Rams.
“We’re going to enjoy this win for 24 hours, meet Sunday and turn our attention to Hillcrest,” Tone said. “Hats off to JL Mann and Coach (Scoot) Watson. He’s done a phenomenal job with that program.”
Anderson completed 19-of-31 passes for 289 yards with two touchdowns and the two interceptions for Mann. Henderson caught seven passes for 134 yards and both scores, while McClellan had 83 yards on five catches and had the game’s first score on a 23-yard end around run. Obadiah Jones ran 10 times for 82 yards, while Na’Cyus Morrison had 70 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries also for the Patriots.