A three-touchdown performance by Austin Bolton propelled Poplarville past Northeast Lauderdale 42-27 in the first round of the class 4A playoffs on Friday.
Poplarville travels to St. Stanislaus in the second round of the class 4A state playoffs next week.
With just over a minute left in the first half, Poplarville’s DJ Travis intercepted a pass from Lauderdale quarterback Kameron Hulin at about the team’s own 40-yard line, leading to the Hornet’s only defensive touchdown of the night.
The score by Travis gave Poplarville a 21-13 halftime lead.
“If he didn’t make that play right there, we probably would have lost the ball game,” said Poplarville coach Jay Beech.
“He showed determination in that play and refused to go down.”
In the Hornet’s first possession of the second half, Peytan Graham scored a 2-yard touchdown and extended the team’s lead to 28-13 with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
The score by Graham was a nine-play drive for 75-yards.
Moments later, Joheim Smith scored a 67-yard touchdown off a pass from Hulin to put the Trojans (6-6) back in the game.
In Poplarville’s next possession, Cory Knight ran for an 11-yard gain but fumbled the ball allowing the Trojans to recover the ball on its own 30-yard line.
Despite the offensive error, the Hornets defense forced a turnover on a fourth-down situation to keep the 28-20 lead late in the third.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, Bolton rushed for his second touchdown of the night for 12-yards. The touchdown gave Poplarville a 35-20 lead.
One play later, Hulin received the kickoff at about the 15-yard line and ran it all the way back to the Hornets’ end zone, shortening Poplarville’s lead to eight points.
Despite only getting one play of rest, Bolton and the Hornets’ offense put the game away by scoring the last touchdown of the game.
Bolton’s score gave Poplarville a 42-27 lead with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets got off to a quick start by scoring on their opening drive. A 5-yard touchdown by Ethan Taylor capped off a nine-play, 53-yard drive for Poplarville.
Just like the Hornets, Northeast Lauderdale scored on its opening drive.
A 30-yard pass from Hulin to Jarvis Cook put the Trojans back in the game but a missed extra point by Brayden Moody kept the Hornets on top with a 7-6 score with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Hornets failed to get anything going in their next drive, punting to the Trojans, who returned the ball to the Hornets 10-yard line.
Hulin rushed for a 10-yard touchdown on the next play, his second score of the night.
The touchdown by Hulin gave Northeast Lauderdale a 13-7 lead, the team’s only one of the game.
Just before the half, Bolton scored his first of three touchdowns of the night to give the Hornets a 14-13 lead with 1:19 left in the second quarter.
“We don’t need to talk about a state championship game, we don’t need to look three weeks down the road,” Beech said.
“I believe in our coaches, kids and fans and we survived against a great opponent.”