High School Sports

Poplarville, Lafayette expect battle in 4A state title game

Poplarville running back Jesse Pernell provides the tough yards up the middle against Florence during 4A South State title game in Poplarville Friday.
Poplarville running back Jesse Pernell provides the tough yards up the middle against Florence during 4A South State title game in Poplarville Friday. ttisbell@sunherald.com

For those who like old fashion football where both teams lean on defense and heavy rushing attacks, you will need to be at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday.

That will be the tale of the tape for both Poplarville and Lafayette when the two teams meet for the MHSAA Class 4A state championship at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

“Lafayette is going to be the best team we’ve played all season by far. You look at them on film, they look like you’re about to face a junior college team,” Poplarville coach Jay Beech said. “We got our hands full. We are going to go out on Saturday and do what we do that got us to this point and just see how it turns out.”

The Hornets (12-1) are in the state championship game for the first time in school history. Poplarville is averaging 379.5 yards per game rushing and are led by their three-headed monster in Austin Bolton (1,701 yards rushing, 21 touchdowns), Jesse Pernell (1,614 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns) and Tyson Holston (452 yards rushing, six touchdowns).

“I feel like we are playing well in all phases right now,” Beech said. “Defense is playing lights out and offense has been executing well all year long.”

Hornets defeat Florence Eagles to advance to championship game.

Bolton suffered a high ankle sprain Friday night against Florence, but Beech says he’ll be ready to go on Saturday.

“He felt a lot better when we met with the team yesterday and we are going to rest him all week,” Beech said. “We’re going to give a lot of treatment and tape it up heavy Saturday and see if he can go.”

The Poplarville defense has been lights out all year and are just giving up just 16 points per game.

“The play very scrappy defense and play a five-man front and that is something we haven’t seen all year,” Lafayette coach Michael Fair said. “They also run the wing-T and that is something else we haven’t seen, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

The Commodores (12-2) are in the state championship game for the first time since 2011, the last time they won a state title. Lafayette, just like Poplarville, is on a 12-game winning streak. The Commodores started off the season 0-2 with losses to Horn Lake and to Grenada and have been rolling ever since.

Lafayette is a little more balanced offensively averaging 233.6 yards per game rushing and 131.9 yards per game passing.

Quarterback Will Ard has tossed for 1,811 yards with 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Promising junior running back Jamarcus Quarles has rushed for 2,062 yards with 18 touchdowns.

Athlete Tyler Williams, a Mississippi State commit, has recorded 718 yards receiving with eight touchdowns and helps anchor a defense that only gives up 11.7 points per game.

“Both teams are playing as well as any team can play up to this point,” Fair said. “Offensively, we got to win on third down and move the chains and keep their offense off the field. Poplarville’s offense is fun to watch unless your preparing for it.”

The Poplarville High School football team took the mannequin challenge after beating Mendenhall 60-12 in the playoffs.

Game plan

Who: Poplarville vs. Lafayette

What: 4A state title game

When: 3 p.m., Saturday

Where: Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville

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