Chase Shears is coming into his own at just the right time for the Poplarville football team.
The junior running back had three touchdowns on his first four carries of the game and the Hornets were well on their way to an 49-28 victory over South Pike Friday night in the third round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Poplarville clinched its third straight trip to the 4A South State title game and will play East Central for the second consecutive time on Nov. 23 in Hurley.
With Friday night’s win in Poplarville, the Hornets pushed their win streak to 12 games behind a deadly rushing attack. Shears finished with 10 carries for 343 yards and five touchdowns.
“He had a good night, scored half the time he touched it,” Poplarville coach Jay Beech said.
Shears, who sat out four games this season due to injury, entered the game averaging 15.4 yards a carry.
On Friday, he averaged 34.3 yards on his way to easily clearing the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He entered the game with 723 total yards and 12 touchdowns.
“He’s unique,” Beech said. “He’s big, strong fast. (Former Poplarville running back Austin Bolton) was a warrior. I wouldn’t trade him for another, but Chase has got a special talent.”
Shears, who is listed at 5-foot-195 pounds, had touchdown runs of 85, 77, 66, 83 and 22 yards.
“The offensive line did a good job of getting him to the first level,” Beech said. “When he went to the second level, he just shed tackles and ran past guys.
Shears had three of Poplarville’s four touchdowns in the first half. Mario Barnes came up with a blocked punt in the first quarter to set up the Hornets’ other first-half score – a 10-yard run by Ethan Taylor in the first quarter.
Poplarville led 28-14 at the half before Shears added two more touchdowns and Cory Knight got in the end zone on a 3-yard run.
Poplarville is in search of its first state championship in football after losing to Lafayette County in the 4A state title in game in 2016 and coming up just shy of the championship round a year ago in a 52-45 loss to East Central.
“We’re just excited for the opportunity to have a chance to go play for a South State championship,” Beech said. “You’ve got the chance. We’re just excited and thankful.”