LAUREL, Miss. (WLOX) - For the second time in three years, the Picayune Maroon Tide will compete for a 5A state championship.
It was another fast start for the Tide, who almost surrendered a massive and early lead to the Laurel Golden Tornadoes Friday night.
Picayune held on for a 35-28 victory after jumping out to leads of 21-0 and 35-7 at R. H. Watkins Stadium -- also known as "Between the Bricks" -- in Laurel.
Even when the entire stadium felt like Picayune would roll to a win, Laurel stepped up and scored 21 unanswered points in a span of five minutes in the fourth quarter.
However, Picayune recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock to secure another 5A south state championship.
"We needed every point," Picayune head coach Dodd Lee said. "I don't know if we could've done it without any point that we had. I want to take my hat off to Laurel. They came back in the fourth quarter and didn't blink."
"They came back fighting and we respect that as a team," Picayune senior running back Preston Dedeaux said. "We played our hearts out and they played their hearts out, too."
With the Tornadoes trailing by seven and with all the momentum, Lee made a gutsy call to go for it on 4th and 1 at midfield to keep the football with his team.
The Tide then did what they do best: run the football and keep possession until the final buzzer.
"Coach Lee is a great coach," Picayune junior wide receiver Dalton Hedgepeth said. "We've got a bunch of players that are willing to work hard.
"We got the opportunity to be managers in ninth grade when we went to the state championship in 2011," Picayune junior quarterback and Dalton's twin brother Devin Hedgepeth said. "It just feels a lot better knowing that you've put in the work and accomplished what you've set your goals for."