Only a lengthy power outage that knocked out half the stadium’s lights proved capable of slowing Poplarville or Greene County’s offenses Friday night.
The two foes didn’t disappoint in the clash of undefeated squads, trading shot after shot for much of the Region 7-4A opener. In the end, Poplarville and its ground-and-pound offense proved to be too much for the Wildcats as the home team eventually pulled out a 54-36 victory.
“Hats off to those guys. They’re as advertised,” new GCHS coach Michael King said. “We knew that coming in, we were just hoping to play well and compete and I think we did that and learned some things about ourselves.”
Friday night’s defensive performances bucked the season’s trend for both Poplarville and Greene County as the two teams had only combined to surrender 113 points heading into the contest.
For the better part of three quarters the Hornets (6-0, 1-0) and Wildcats (6-1, 0-1) matched big plays. Then late in the third quarter Poplarville’s experience showed up as the reigning Class 4A South State champions pulled away by holding the upstart Wildcats without a score on their final four possessions.
“A couple of times our drives stalled out and it was obvious we were going to have to match them score for score,” King said. “I think those guys having been in big games – and us not having been in big games – had a lot to do with it. We just kind of ran out of gas.
“It was the most physical game we’ve been a part of this year and we had some guys feeling it in the fourth quarter.”
The usual run heavy attack paid off for Poplarville as its three-headed monster of Roosevelt Raine, Austin Bolton and Tyson Holston combined for 556 yards and six touchdowns.
“We feed off each other. If (Raine) makes a big run I feel like I have to make a big run. And the same if I make a big run. We feed off each other,” Bolton said, adding that there’s a friendly competition between the backs. “We be trying to compare stats in class and everything.”
Bolton had a game-high 277 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries. Raine added 162 yards and a score on 19 touches. Not to be outdone, Holston rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
The fireworks started almost immediately Friday as Greene County drove the field on its first drive and scored on a 32-yard run from quarterback Derrick Grice. Poplarville answered on the very next play when Raine took off down the middle of the field for a 65-yard score.
“Every time I touch the football I just expect to break and get a touchdown,” he said. “I just wish for the best when I hit the hole and then I’m gone.”
After forcing GCHS to punt, Bolton took the Hornets’ very next handoff 73 yards for a score.
The Poplarville defense also got involved in the scoring when Amahd Bolton stripped Grice and Mario Barnes swooped in, scooping up the loose ball and returning it about five yards for a touchdown. The successful two-point conversion put PHS ahead 20-7.
After Grice combined with Kevin Dortch for a 43-yard touchdown, Poplarville punctuated a 12-play drive with a 14-yard touchdown from Holston. A 1-yard run by Grice and a 37-yard touchdown strike from the GCHS quarterback to Santez Campbell sandwiched a 42-yard score from Bolton to close out the first half with Poplarville clinging to a 36-29 advantage.
Bolton scored on a 48-yard run to open the third quarter and Grice found the end zone on a 1-yard run to keep the trend alive.
After that, however, Poplarville’s defense limited GCHS the rest of the way while the hometown Hornets found the end zone on a 5-yard runs from Bolton and Cory Knight.
Greene County returns to the field next Friday to host Purvis, while Poplarville travels to Forrest County AHS.