PASCAGOULA - The commotion was nearly deafening under the South bleachers at War Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
Blue and gold-clad parents and friends cheered and held their phones above the crowd to snap photos and videos as Resurrection's players exited the locker room one by one. The players, in turn, waved to the crowd like conquering heroes after clamping down on Lumberton 23-8 to win the Class 1A South State Championship.
"I'm too excited right now," said senior defensive end Paul Blackwell, red in the face from all of the excitement. "This has been such a long journey with this team. I've been on this team for about six years so it feels good to finally be winning it all.
"Everybody gave their all. They got a little physical but we matched up to it and really came to play."
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At mid-field, RCS coach Scott Sisson reflected on where the team has come. The Eagles achieved their first winning season since 2011 last year with a 10-win campaign. Now they're headed to Oxford to play Hollandale Simmons after the undefeated Blue Devils annihilated Smithville 46-0.
"I think people know that we're for real. Hopefully people will take note," Sisson said. "Three years ago people said they didn't even know Resurrection had a football team when we'd show up to play a game and get our brains beat out. Now, the same kids who were getting beat like that are returning it now."
The Eagles (13-0 overall) had allowed just eight points in the last eight games. The last team to score: Lumberton on Oct. 30. Friday, the Panthers (8-6) found the end zone once on a 2-yard run from workhorse back Daylon Burks late in the first half - but that was it.
Burks, who has rushed for 2,698 yards and 35 touchdowns, was held to a season-low 121 yards the last time the two teams met. Friday, the Eagles one-upped themselves, holding the dangerous senior to 54 yards on 16 carries.
"He's the scariest back I've faced since I've been at Resurrection. He's that good," Sisson said. "You can't ever let him get a head of steam going down hill. Even when we did get him in the backfield he always gets positive yardage. You have to wrap him up and gang tackle him."
Lumberton coach Zach Jones credited Resurrection's defensive front for keeping his team out of the end zone for most of the night.
"Their defensive front, if there's a better front in all of 1A football someone needs to show it to me," he said. "They did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage. When they do that, with the way we like to play football we're going to have a hard time moving it so we tried to throw it and open it up."
Resurrection's backfield deserves its fair share of attention as well. Patrick Watts led the team with 122 yards on 19 carries and scored the game's first touchdown on a 2-yard run late in the first quarter. Dillan Jolly rushed for 103 yards, and Cearly Parker IV rushed for 48 yards with touchdowns of 2 and 7 yards.
Kicker Phillip Burrow capped the scoring late in the fourth quarter with a 26-yard field goal.
The game was chippy throughout, but tempers flared up on the ensuing kick return. As Lumberton's returner was tackled out of bounds players from both sides continued to shove one another. Resurrection's Jerry Johnson was ejected as a result, making the win a bit bittersweet, Sisson said. Due to the rough ending, the players did not shake hands after the game and instead were sent directly to their respective locker rooms.