A standing room only crowd witnessed a historic high school football game. East Central had been dominating their opponents all season long and they Hornets were pumped as they hit the playing field having won 12 straight games. Undefeated Poplarville, the defending Class 4A South State champs entered the showdown with a 13 game winning streak.
Poplarville quarterback Antonio Barnes was sacked by Branson Davis. It resulted in a fumble and linebacker Avery White picked up the football and scored the touchdown propelling East Central to a 7-0 lead.
East Central quarterback Riley Brown has an excellent arm and he showed it off with a perfect pass to running back Tony Brown who scored his 43rd touchdown on the year. Poplarville quarterback Antonio Barnes would drop back and fire a touchdown strike to tight end Mario Barnes and the Hornets from Pearl River County picked up some momentum.
Tony Brown had another big night. He would explode on a 90 yard touchdown gallop. Tony "Touchdown" Brown would crack the Poplarville end zone. He followed a easy path thanks to excellent blocking by the East Central linemen.
Poplarville's Austin Bolton is also an excellent running back. He exploded 78 yards by leaping over a would be tackler and Poplarville would not go away. Poplarville battled back and tied the game at 45-all, but East Central would score a late touchdown to lock-up the Class 4A South State title 52-45.
It's been a record setting season for East Central, claiming their first-ever South State football title.
Head coach Seth Smith spoke with Patrick Clay after the game and praised his players and the Hurley community.
"Incredible," said Coach Smith. "Thank God. I've said it all year, there's now way to give the kids enough credit. We don't block. We don't tackle. We don't score. They do it. They're fantastic kids and they come to work everyday with a great attitude. Just like in life, if you're willing to attack it with a great attitude and effort, anything is possible and you're seeing that right now.
When Poplarville tied the game in the fourth quarter, what did Coach Smith tell his players?
"I told them not to panic, "said Smith. "Just finish. We won most of our games by significant margins. This was kind of different for us. But credit their coaches and their kids. Those guys did not quit. We go up 42-21 and they could have packed it in. But they kept battling. So, credit them. There's no way that I can say enough about our kids and our community. It's on another level."
The Resurrection Eagles took flight for Louisville, the site of the Class 1A South State title game. The 7 and 6 Eagles faced a tough assignment, undefeated Nanih Waiya. The Warriors had run off 14 consecutive wins before the Friday Night Football Showdown.
Nanih Waiya had the home field advantage, a place where they hardly ever taste defeat. Warriors running Chris Smith scored the games first touchdown. The PAT was no good.
Resurrection running back Jerry Johnson tied the game on a two-yard run. The Eagles would grab a 12-6 advantage when quarterback Blake Porter let the ball fly, Patrick Lee made the catch and raced 65 yards for the go ahead touchdown 12-6.
Warriors quarterback Bryce Stanton tied the game on a keeper. Both teams headed into the locker room tied at 12.
Resurrection would jump out to a 19-12 lead on a 33 yard touchdown strike from Porter to Patrick Roth. The Eagles would increase that lead to 25-12 on a three yard touchdown run by Jerry Johnson.
After Nanih Waiya added a touchdown to close the gap, Resurrection quarterback Blake Porter hooked up with Patrick Lee on a 71-yard touchdown connection, 32-20 Eagles with 10:30 remaining on the clock.
Nanih Waiya would explode for two touchdowns and handed Resurrection a heart-breaking 36-32 defeat to eliminate the Eagles from the title game.
Nanih Waiya advances to battle Simmons in the Class 1A title game 11 a.m. on Friday in Oxford at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Despite the loss, coach Scott Sisson and his coaching staff must be credited for an outstanding job and season.
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