In each of the first two weeks of the season No. 3 St. Martin has either trailed early or been tied going into the half and still found a way to rally for wins over Poplarville and at Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
No. 8 Picayune made sure no such comeback took place at their home opener Friday. The Tide popped the Yellow Jackets for a couple early scores and piled on late for a 56-21 victory at Lee-Triplett Stadium.
The outcome avenged last year’s 63-28 road loss for Picayune.
“We came out firing on all cylinders. We came out with the mentality they couldn’t stop us,” said senior running back Josh Littles, who was a catalyst in the win with 175 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. “This win told us a lot. We’ve worked hard since last year.”
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Picayune (2-0) jumped out 21-0 lead early in the first quarter on touchdown runs of 23 and 8 yards by Shaun Anderson and Littles, respectively, plus a 30-yard pass and catch from Skylar Bowman to tight end Tyler Penton. After St. Martin’s Wayne Overman III connected with receiver Kalem Reddix for a 70-yard score early in the second quarter, Bowman and Penton hooked up again, this time for a 70-yard touchdown strike.
“We saw something there,” Lee said of the team’s two long passing touchdowns. “I’d rather not say, but we see it all the time.”
Littles later broke free on 80- and 2-yard touchdown runs to give Picayune a 42-7 halftime lead.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot. We were our biggest enemy. I’m not taking anything away from them, but we gave some possessions away,” St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead said. “To catch back up, we couldn’t let that happen and it did. We needed 21 at halftime to have a shot, and we didn’t get there.”
St. Martin (2-1) struck first in the second half, with a 43-yard pass-and-catch from Overman to Reddix, but it was all Picayune after that.
Anderson broke free up the middle late in the third quarter for a 70-yard touchdown, pushing Picayune’s lead to 49-14. With 6:27 remaining, fullback Blake Merrifield busted a 31-yard run up the middle to give the Tide a 56-14 lead.
“We don’t stop. We keep going. Just keep pushing and pushing and pushing until the defense can’t do anything anymore,” Littles said. “We have a lot of depth in the backfield. When I get tight we have someone else who’s coming in and giving 100 percent.”
Overman and Reddix connected one last time with 1:18 remaining on a 31-yard touchdown.
While the offense certainly ran away with the game after scoring five times on plays of 30 or more yards, Picayune’s defense also deserved it’s own recognition. The Tide more than held their own against St. Martin’s quick-strike offense. Anderson picked off Overman once and both Jacob Brumley and Merrifield recovered fumbles.
“We played zone and man and blitzed a little. That’s what we’ve done here forever. We’ve worked real hard since November,” Picayune coach Dodd Lee said. “I see a lot more confidence this year. I see a lot of kids who believe in each other and understand what they’re doing.”
Overman ended up completing 20 of 32 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns, all to Reddix. The Yellow Jackets’ go-to receiver finished with 12 receptions for 222 yards.
Anderson rushed seven times for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Class 5A Picayune will look to improve to 3-0 against the Coast’s Class 6A ranks Friday when it hosts No. 1 Gulfport. St. Martin hosts Crestview (Fla.).