Poplarville wins 4A South State title
One Pearl River County football program made history Friday night while the other had an impressive season come to a close.
Poplarville clinched the program's first ever spot in a state title game by rolling over Florence 42-14 in front of packed home crowd for the Class 4A South State title.
Twenty-five miles up the road at an overflowing Lee-Triplett Stadium, Laurel put up 35 unanswered points in the second half for a 45-27 win over Picayune for the Class 5A South State championship.
Poplarville will play Lafayette County at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Starkville for the 4A state title. At 7 p.m. on Saturday, Laurel will take on West Point for the 5A state championship.
Picayune head coach Dodd Lee was disappointed in the outcome after leading 27-10 at halftime, but there was simply more talent on the Laurel sideline Friday night.
"We had our chances," Lee said. "We were right where we wanted to be at halftime. The best team won tonight."
The Maroon Tide's season came to a close with a record of 12-2.
Poplarville (12-1) has made it look easy all season against Class 4A competition and that was again the case Friday night against a tough Florence squad (12-3).
The smallest margin of victory for Poplarville this year against a 4A opponent was 33-12 over Quitman in the second round of the playoffs. The Hornets have beaten 4A competition by an average of 35.4 points a game this season.
Poplarville has won 12 consecutive contests since losing the season opener 35-14 to a talented Class 6A squad, St. Martin.
Poplarville has improved throughout the season and may very well be one of the better teams in the state regardless of classification.
Saturday's opponent, Lafayette, has also won 12 consecutive games entering the state title contest. The Commodores beat Pontotoc 21-14 Friday night to advance.
While Poplarville is in new territory, Lafayette is no stranger to playing for state titles.
Lafayette won state championships in 2010 and 2011 and they were runners-up in 2009 and 2013.
Lafayette sits at 12-2 with its two losses coming against Class 6A Horn Lake and Class 5A Grenada. Both Horn Lake and Grenada finished the season 9-3.
Plenty of options
Poplarville has the makings of a special football team with playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Junior running back Austin Bolton and senior fullback Jesse Pernell make up the core of the offense, but they are far from the lone options for the Hornets.
Bolton, who had to leave Friday's game in the second half with an injury, ran 16 times for 228 yards and four touchdowns. It's unclear how the injury will impact Bolton's status for Saturday's title contest.
The future for the program is bright considering quarterback Antonio Barnes and gifted athlete Tyson Holston are both sophomores. Holston ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns on Friday.
No matter what happens Saturday, Poplarville head coach Jay Beech and the entire program have made history for the community.