It was just a jamboree, but Poplarville and Biloxi gave the crowd their money's worth Friday night.
After a dramatic late touchdown toss gave Biloxi a 21-17 lead with 23 seconds remaining, Poplarville junior D.J. Travis took the ensuing kickoff near his own 5 yard line and ran it up the gut 95 yards for the winning score with 9 seconds left.
“I just saw an open hole and I just took it,” said Travis, who also came up with an interception early in the game.
The Class 4A Hornets traveled back to Poplarville with a 24-21 win and confidence knowing that they could hang with Class 6A Biloxi.
“That was fun,” Poplarville coach Jay Beech said. “We put in a lot of work to get to this point. It was a pretty exciting finish.”
Biloxi will open the season against St. Stanislaus in the Shrimp Bowl on Aug. 19 while Poplarville will travel to take on another 6A team, St. Martin, the same night.
Poplarville appeared to have the game squared away when junior running back Austin Bolton ran 10 yards for a touchdown and the 17-14 lead with 1:12 remaining.
After struggling on offense for much of 2015, Biloxi showed some fight on that side of the ball by responding with a 4-play, 88-yard drive to regain the lead.
Senior running back Nick Ross sparked the Indians with a 38-yard run on the second play of the possession and Tucker Thomas followed up with a scrambling 22-yard pass to Jones to set the Indians up at the Hornets' 18.
Thomas then threw a high toss to Jones, who made an over-the-shoulder reception in the right corner of the end zone to give the Indians a 21-17 lead with 23 seconds left.
“That was an All-NFL play,” Biloxi coach Bobby Hall said.
Jones showed that he is again ready to put up huge numbers in 2016 with four catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns Friday night.
Thomas and Jones hooked up on an 80-yard touchdown pass that gave the Indians a 14-10 lead with 7:46 remaining.
“We haven't stopped him yet,” Beech said of Jones. “Time just ran out. He's very good.”
Thomas finished 6-of-9 passing for 145 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Hall expects Thomas and Jones to only improve their chemistry as the season goes on.
“They'll just get better and better,” Hall said. “Tucker is an inexperienced quarterback and Tim is inexperienced with him. There's no question they'll get better.”
The star on offense for Poplarville was Bolton, who finished with a game high of 10 carries for 77 yards and also had one catch for 31 yards.
“I expect him to be really good, be special,” Beech said. “If he can stay healthy, we'll be alright.”
Poplarville's other touchdown came on a 17-yard run by Tyson Holston with 11:02 left in the second quarter. Nicholas Kirschbaum provided the first score of the night for the Hornets on a 37-yard field goal at the 1:23 mark of the first quarter.
Biloxi's first score came from its defense on a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Anthony Crouse with 11:02 left.