High School Sports

Patrick’s Picks: Who wins the ‘Hornet Bowl’ and can Resurrection survive?

There are only three teams left standing in South Mississippi with two bids on the line for the state championship round Friday night.

East Central travels to Poplarville in the Class 4A South State title game while Resurrection makes the 220-mile trek to Nanih Waiya in Louisville for the Class 1A South State championship contest.

While Resurrection and Poplarville have each made their first state title game appearances in the previous two seasons, East Central is aiming to earn for its first.

The winner of East Central-Poplarville will play either Noxubee County or Louisville at 3 p.m. on Dec. 2 in the 4A title game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.

If Resurrection gets past Nanih Waiya, it will face the winner of Okolona-Simmons at 11 a.m. on Dec. 1 in Oxford.

With only two games to pick, here is how I see things playing out Friday night:

East Central 42, Poplarville 28: East Central (12-0) hasn't faced a true challenge since playing Jefferson Davis County and Hazlehurst on consecutive weeks in September. The Hornets cruised through those two teams - who happen to be playing each other this week in the Class 3A South State title game - and has rolled through Class 4A competition ever since.

Poplarville (13-0) has proven a savvy squad, finding ways to overcome the occasional challenge throughout the course of the season. Now that senior running back Austin Bolton is fully healthy, the Hornets are ready for Friday night's battle.

The problem for Poplarville is that East Central seems to have a slight edge in all areas of the game – offense, defense and special teams.

East Central, which puts up huge numbers on the ground, features a dangerous passing game thanks to senior quarterback Rylee Brown and senior tight end Brad Cumbest. It will be interesting to see if Poplarville's talented defensive back D.J. Travis can find a way to make sure Cumbest doesn't factor into the game.

Poplarville's Wing-T will be a major challenge, but the East Central defense has been completely for much of the season.

On special teams, East Central junior Branson Davis has made 9-of-10 field goals with a long of 46. He also makes a habit of booting kickoffs through the end zone.

The factor that will play in Poplarville's favor is a distinct home field advantage. No fan base has been more energized this season than the one in Poplarville.

East Central may look better on paper and on film, but whoever makes the fewest mistakes will be traveling to Oxford next week.

The one thing I can be sure of is that the atmosphere will be electric for the 'Hornet Bowl' in Poplarville Friday night.

Nanih Waiya 24, Resurrection 14: The Resurrection Catholic Eagles (7-6) found their stride late in the season as key players began to get healthy.

RCS is battled tested from playing likely the toughest schedule that any Class 1A team has played this season, but Nanih Waiya may present the biggest challenge yet.

Nanih Waiya (14-0) has absolutely pummeled the competition this season, winning every game by at least 20 points.

Senior Chris Smith, who fills a variety of roles on offense and defense, has accounted for 180 points this season for Nanih Waiya. Senior running back Taemaus Glass has run for 1,595 yards and 25 touchdowns.

For RCS to win Friday night on the road, senior quarterback Blake Porter will have to play the game of his life and the RCS defense has to be at its absolute best.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee

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