Three high school football teams from South Mississippi entered Friday’s quarterfinal playoff action. After the dust settled, all three remained.
Hosting a third round playoff game for the first time in program history, East Central took an early 7-0 lead thanks to a touchdown run by Dylan Grinsteinner and relied on their defense the rest of the way. The only points the Hornets allowed all night came off of a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, as East Central (12-0) edged out West Lauderdale 10-6 to advance to their second straight 4A South State Championship Game appearance.
“Game thirteen (is) no different than game one. (Our) first game of the year we won 6-0, this game we won 10-6," East Central head coach Seth Smith said. "Our defense has carried us the whole year. We’re not here without those guys, and there’s no way to really give them enough credit. They have played that good all year.”
For a rematch of last year’s 4A South State Championship, Poplarville had to hold up their end of the bargain as well, and they did from the very first play from scrimmage.
Junior running back Chase Shears took his first quarter hand-off over 80 yards for the score, and he didn’t stop there, racking up 343 yards and an incredible five touchdowns on just ten carries, leading Poplarville (12-1) to a 49-28 victory over South Pike.
With the victory, East Central and Poplarville will face off in the Class 4A South State Championship Game for the second straight season, with fans already dubbing this year’s contest the “Hornet Bowl II."
In Class 5A, Picayune faced off against Laurel in the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Unlike the first two, the Maroon Tide prevailed, rolling the Golden Tornadoes 41-22 to advance to the Class 5A South State Championship Game. Picayune (11-3) will face off against West Jones, who turned in a stunning victory over previously-undefeated Hattiesburg 37-14.