Picayune crowned back-to-back 5A State Champions with 31-21 win vs. West Point

Picayune defeats West Point 31-21 to finish the season 15-0.
Picayune defeats West Point 31-21 to finish the season 15-0.(WLOX Sports)
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 9:33 PM CST
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WLOX) - In August, 225 high school football teams all set out with the hopes of being one of the state’s six champions. Friday night, the Picayune Maroon Tide became one of those six, defeating the West Point Green Wave by a score of 31-21 to become back-to-back MHSAA 5A State Champions.

The matchup was the third of its kind, as Picayune and West Point have played just twice before -- both meetings being in the State Championship. The most recent of the two matchups came just last year, as the Tide convincingly defeated the Wave 40-21 to win their first championship since 2013.

West Point came into the game with an 11-2 record with their only losses coming to Starkville, who earned a spot in the 6A Championship, and Louisville, who will play in the 4A Championship.

Both teams leaned heavy on their ground attack throughout the season, with Picayune’s Dante Dowdell and West Point’s Kahnen Daniels each being within 30 yards of reaching 2,000 rushing yards on the year. Both players would pass that mark in this game.

Picayune would score the first points of the game with a 26-yard field goal early in the first quarter. West Point would answer with a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tillman Evans to receiver Ahmari Cox following a 43-yard rush by Daniels, making the score 7-3 in their favor with 3:59 left in the first quarter.

A long, winding drive for Picayune would finish out the first and continue into the second, but two deep shots to the endzone would come up empty, giving West Point the ball inside their own 20. Another long touchdown pass for the Green Wave would give them a two-possession lead. A 10-play 54-yard drive for Picayune ended with a Dante Dowdell touchdown, bringing the score to 14-9 West Point’s way after a missed extra point. The score would stay the same heading into halftime.

Picayune outgained West Point 205 yards to 41 on the ground in the first half.

To start off the second half, Dowdell would earn his second touchdown of the night with a 22-yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion by runningback Chris Davis would be successful, giving the Tide a 17-14 lead with 8:20 left in the third quarter. After a West Point punt, Picayune would go to the air with a 80-yard touchdown pass from Brady Robertson to Darrell Smith, who earned 73 yards after the catch, to extend their lead 24-14 to close out the quarter.

A long kickoff return would set the Wave up with good field position. They would score by way of an 8-yard rushing touchdown by Kahnen Daniels, making the score 24-21 following the PAT. Another rushing touchdown for Dowdell, this time from 37 yards out, would see Picayune jump back out to a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. A West Point fumble on their own 40 would be recovered by Damarius Magee, allowing Picayune to drain the clock to win by a final score of 31-21.

Dante Dowdell was named MVP of the game, rushing 28 times for 190 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Picayune joins 3A’s Raleigh Lions and 1A’s Bay Springs Bulldogs as the latest teams to be crowned champions. With the win, they complete a flawless 15-0 season and extend their winning streak to 26. The championship is their seventh in program history. Next year, the Tide will make the transition to 6A Region 4 following MHSAA’s announcement of new classifications.

The 6A, 4A and 2A State Championship games will take place Saturday. For more information on tickets, kickoff times and where to watch, visit MHSAA’s website.

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