Both the D’Iberville Warriors and Picayune Maroon Tide entered Friday night looking for answers. The Warriors won last week’s opener but by their own admission were anything but crisp. The Tide, meanwhile, fell to regional rival Poplarville in a disappointing performance.
Picayune left Lee-Triplett Stadium on Friday night with some clarity after earning a convincing 31-10 win.
“It was a little maturity,” said Dodd Lee, Picayune coach. “I thought we played harder and a little bit tougher. We’re still making mistakes. You don’t let people behind you with 15 seconds to go, but that’s coaching, too. We can work with that. Hopefully we’ll get a few kids back this week and start establishing a little depth and maybe get back to the kind of football we’re used to playing.
“We did a good job tonight, but I think we’re still a long way from where we can get.”
The loss only compounded early concerns for D’Iberville. Outside of their two scoring drives, the Warriors failed to move the ball with any regularity.
“We didn’t (click). I’m still not comfortable at all with where we are offensively and really I don’t know why. We have a lot of guys coming back on offense but it’s just not happening for us right now,” D’Iberville coach Eric Collins said. “But it’s early in the season. It didn’t happen for us last year early in the season. I’m sure we’ll get better. It’s like I told the kids, it’s not where you are at the beginning of the season that counts.”
Picayune (1-1) jumped on D’Iberville (1-1) two minutes into the contest. After pouncing on a high snap on a D’Iberville punt attempt deep in the Warriors’ territory, Shaun Anderson motored around the left side for an 8-yard score.
The game went into a bit of a lull until the final 2:13 of the first half, when the Warriors and Tide exploded for 24 points.
Tyler Penton connected with Anderson for a 26-yard touchdown with 2:13 remaining in the first half to go ahead 14-0.
The Warriors responded on their next drive by going to the air. The tactic worked as Michael Kozlowski completed 4 of 5 passes, scoring on a 10-yard strike to Layton Businelle to pull within seven.
With 15 seconds remaining in the half, the Tide went 61 yards in two plays. After a 34-yard pass down the home sideline from Penton to Elijah Burton, the senior quarterback rolled to his right and lofted a pass to Anderson. The running back did the rest of the work, sprinting past the Warrior defense for a 27-yard score.
The first-half scoring wasn’t done there. Kozlowski hooked up with his favorite target once more, slipping a pass over the Tide secondary to Businelle. The 49-yard pass set up Brady Groce’s 32-yard field goal for D’Iberville’s final score of the night.
“They were playing us in man coverage with the middle of the field wide open. We were trying to take advantage of it, but really that kind of game isn’t our forte,” Collins said. “We were able to take advantage a little bit, but it wasn’t enough to win the game. Unless you can establish a running game against Picayune you’re going to struggle.
“If we had a running game to go with the passing game, maybe we would have had a shot. … We’re still trying to find ourself.”
Picayune chewed up the clock to open the second half and capped a 16-play, nearly 8-minute drive with a 5-yard score by Jortin Raine. The short run extended Picayune’s lead to 28-10.
Sami Naji’s 22-yard field goal with 6:54 remaining pushed the Tide’s lead to 31-10.
Doing It All
Anderson finished the game with 113 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries to go along with two touchdown catches for a total of 53 yards.
“And he plays cornerback, too,” Lee said. “He has a lot of guts. I think he grew up a little bit tonight.”
Linebacker Brian Taylor was also impressed with Anderson, who took over as Picayune’s lead back with the graduation of Joshua Littles.
“He’s been there all the time. There was no understudy,” Taylor said of Littles and Anderson’s roles in 2016. “They were back-to-back.”
Jeremiah Stallings helped spark the defense Friday with two interceptions. He pulled hijacked a Jaden Walley pass over the middle in the first half and then snatched one of Kozlowski’s passes while in coverage in the third quarter.
“Stallings was exceptional,” Taylor said. “We need him. We need him.”
While Kozlowski finished 7 of 12 passing for 119 yards with a touchdown and interception, the Warriors’ trademark rushing attack failed to eclipse 100 yards, finishing with 63 yards on 23 carries.
“They just beat us to the punch. They were more physical than us. I just have to say it like it is,” Collins said. “We have to start playing together as a team and playing for each other. That’s the bottom line.”
Back At It
Picayune is back in action Friday with new Class 6A school Pascagoula visiting the Maroon Tide. D’Iberville travels to Madison Central for a premier Class 6A showdown that was added to the schedule just before the start of the season.