CARRIERE-- Wayne County punched its ticket to the Class 5A South State Championship game, defeating Pearl River Central 37-13 at Hendrix Stadium on Friday night.
"Our defense played lights out tonight," Wayne County coach Todd Mangum said. "We were good on offense, but it was all set up by our D."
Leading the way for the War Eagle defense was Ole Miss commit Benito Jones. The senior defensive lineman collected nine tackles, two sacked, forced a fumble, and intercepted a pass.
"They dominated us up front on both sides of the ball," PRC coach Eric Collins said. "All season, we have been able to create tempo, but their front didn't allow that. You cannot win when you get beat in the trenches."
The War Eagles made a statement early, racing out to a 23-0 lead.
Chris Cooley got the scoring going with a one-yard TD plunge on the opening drive of the game.
After a Blue Devil punt, Wayne County quarterback Reggie Stewart connected with Ramiek Wallace on a 36-yard scoring strike to give the War Eagles a 14-0 lead with 3:46 left in the first.
Early in the second quarter, Stewart hooked up with Demetrius Harris on a 14-yard scoring pass for a 20-0 War Eagles lead. Kicker Brett Reynolds' 35-yard field goal gave the War Eagles a 23-0 lead.
The Blue Devils (11-2) began to show signs of life with a 53-yard drive for their first score of the evening. The drive was aided by four War Eagle penalties.
PRC quarterback Wyatt Davis connected with Austin Champagne for a 20-yard scoring strike, cutting the gap to 23-7 at halftime.
PRC took the second-half kickoff and ate up nearly seven minutes of game clock, but was unable to score. The drive was halted when Jones intercepted a Davis pass at the War Eagles' 15-yard-line.
Wayne County made PRC pay for the turnover a few plays later, when Freddie Jordan exploded up the middle for a 47-yard TD run for a 30-7 lead.
PRC answered with a 71-yard scoring drive with 11:04 left to play. Christian Roberts scored on a one-yard run. PRC's two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score at 30-13.
Wayne County salted the game away after it recovered the ensuing onsides kick. Stewart capped the drive with a one-yard TD run with 6:46 left for a 37-13 advantage.
PRC's Tristen Bailey returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to the War Eagles' 15. But the Blue Devils were unable to score and Wayne County ran out the clock.
Roberts collected 60 yards on 17 carries. Michael Tatman led the Blue Devils with 88 yards, Champagne added 72 receiving yards.
"This was a special group of kids," Collins said. "The seniors, I've had the pleasure to coach them for four years. You don't get this kind of group too often. I'm very proud of them."