JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - The Picayune Maroon Tide strolled into Jackson during a season in which they began with a loss.
Their opponent, the Oxford Chargers, had victories in all 14 games leading up to the 5A state championship game between the two schools.
But as Picayune proved Saturday night, it's not how you start -- it's how you finish.
On a cold Saturday night in Jackson, the Maroon Tide faced a 14-point deficit with less than eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
All the momentum was on Oxford's side with 7:23 left in the game before Picayune converted a fourth-down attempt by mere inches to keep the drive and championship hopes alive. A 47-yard touchdown from Boderick Scott to Daveon Greene followed to cut the deficit to seven points and instill confidence back into the group.
"That momentum was very big," said Scott, who finished with 140 passing yards and two touchdowns. "We were always taught to not give up until the last second. That's what we did."
Then it was the Picayune defense's turn to make a play. They forced a three-and-out, and the Maroon Tide rewarded that effort with the game-tying touchdown by Preston Dedeaux.
"[The defense] means a lot to us," Dedeaux said. "I'm proud of them. We're proud of ourselves. Our coaches did their jobs."
However, the job wasn't done. The Picayune defense then forced another punt to hand the ball back to the offense.
On the first offensive play of the ensuing drive, Kardarius Cross sprinted 75 yards with the tones of an energized crowd and a feeling he didn't know would be available six game minutes prior.
"I could hear myself breathing loud and I could hear the crowd getting really loud screaming at the top of their lungs," said Cross, whose brother Doug won a state championship with Picayune in 2011. "I just knew we had to go get that win. I knew they weren't going to stop us again. They were speechless at the end."
Oxford fumbled the football on its last play, assuring Picayune a victory formation and fifth-ever state championship in a 42-35 win over the Chargers.
"Every play is big and that's what we tell our kids," Picayune head coach Dodd Lee said. "You play this game like your life depends on it.