By Creg Stephenson
The Picayune Item
There will be no repeat for the Picayune Maroon Tide.
Pascagoula shocked the top-ranked defending state champions 27-10 Friday night at War Memorial Stadium, forcing three turnovers and holding the Maroon Tide to 246 yards of offense. Picayune’s season ends at 11-1, while the Panthers (10-2) move on to face Pearl River Central in next week’s 5A South State finals.
“We had two turnovers and two unforced penalties in the first half, and that put us in the hole, and we weren’t able to get out of it,” Picayune coach Dodd Lee said. “They did a great job blocking and tackling, and executing both offensively and defensively. And we didn’t.”
For Pascagoula, quarterback Stacey Warren rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown and passed for 94 in leading the Panther upset. Breland Hoye had two short touchdown runs and Grant Warren kicked two field goals as Pascagoula ended Picayune’s 18-game winning streak, beat the Maroon Tide for the first time since 1997, and avenged a 49-10 loss during the regular season.
“Yesterday, we talked to our team about David and Goliath,” Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims said. “And how David was an unconventional warrior, how he met his opponent on the battlefield, and with a smooth stone and slingshot — he didn’t try to be anybody or anything he wasn’t. He was who he was, and he was able to bring the Philistine to his knees. Picayune, give them all the credit in the world, they have a great football. On one night in November, the Panthers were a little bit better.”
For Pascagoula, Brandon Rich had a pair of interceptions. The first set up a first-quarter touchdown and the second killed Picayune’s last true threat with 7:41 to play.
Pascagoula controlled the game from the start, forcing two Picayune turnovers in the first half and leading 10-3 at the break. The Panthers took a two-touchdown lead early in the third, with Warren’s 29-yard run and 38-yard pass to Taurus Richardson setting up the first of Hoye’s two touchdown runs, a 2-yarder with 6:01 left in the third quarter.
Picayune, which had rallied from 14 down to beat Brookhaven 69-42 in the first round, answered quickly. Ben Hickman hit Tanner Bryan on a 15-yard score to make it 17-10 with 3:54 left in the third, but the Maroon Tide would not score again.
Picayune turned the ball over on downs at the Pascagoula 20 early in the fourth quarter, when Bryan was ruled out of bounds on a sideline catch. Warren ran 51 yards on Pascagoula’s second play, then Hoye ran the ball in from the 3 to make it 24-10.
“We kind of let everybody down the last time (against Picayune),” Warren said. “We let the whole city down. We weren’t just doing this for ourselves. The whole region was really counting on us to pull through.”
Grant Warren’s 36-yard field goal completed the scoring with 4:39 left. Warren also had a 39-yarder in the second quarter, which came after Stacey Warren’s 7-yard run put Pascagoula on top 7-0 in the first.
Mark Polderman’s 43-yard field goal on the final play of the first half got Picayune on the board. Star tailback Preston Dedeaux, who missed the previous game against Pascagoula with a shoulder injury, rushed for 119 yards on 29 carries, but did not get into the end zone.
The game was the last for a number of Picayune seniors, including Hickman, Bryan, fullback Desmond Taylor, running back/defensive end Doug Cross, linebacker JaCorea Poole and offensive linemen Joey Reynolds, Cooper Esslinger and Jacob Feeley. The group won 32 games, two region titles and a state championship in the last three years.
“It’s a great bunch of kids and it’s been an awful fun run,” Lee said. “But everything has to come to an end. We weren’t able to get it done tonight.”