By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
The Picayune Item
Over the past decade, perennial power Wayne County has lost just a pair of playoff games at home.
Both of those defeats have come at the hands of Pearl River Central.
The visiting Blue Devils scored two quick touchdowns in the first five minutes of the third quarter, overcoming a 6-0 halftime deficit in the process and knocking off the War Eagles 24-19.
With the win, second–ranked PRC earned its second straight trip to the Class 5A South State championship game, and the Blue Devils will host Pascagoula Friday night for the chance to advance to the state title contest. Pascagoula upset top-ranked and previously unbeaten Picayune 27-10 Friday night.
Last season, PRC scored in the final minute of the game to beat the homestanding War Eagles 29-28.
“This was a great win for out team,” PRC third year head coach EriC Collins, whose team moves to 11-1, said. “We didn’t make the same mistakes in the second half that we did in the first half, that was the difference. We told the guys at halftime that if the wanted to play again next week, we had to have a clean second half and that’s exactly what we got.” Wayne County scored on the last play of the first quarter, on a 1-yard sneak by quarterback David Hodo, to take the halftime lead.
That score came right after a PRC fumble deep inside War Eagle territory.
But the Blue Devils took the second half kickoff and marched 64 yards in six plays, with Steven Kubicki scoring on a 32-yard run. Jovan Detto’s first of three extra points gave the Blue Devils a lead they would never relinquish.
On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, PRC’s Lane Fazende recovered a War Eagle fumble at the WCHS 17.
Three plays later, Desmond Michel crashed in from a yard out to put PRC up 14-6.
“That was the biggest play of the game,” Collins said, of the fumble recovery. “That really turned the momentum in our favor.”
“We made some adjustments at halftime, but mostly Coach Collins told us that we had to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Michel said. “We knew if we wanted to keep playing we had to make some plays.”
And after Wayne County cut the deficit to 14-9, Michel did exactly that again as he hauled in a 18-yard scoring strike from Dylan Spiers to make it 21-9 with 10:39 left in the game.
Wayne County fought back, and scored on a 4-yard pass from Hodo to Cedric McLaughlin to make it 21-15 with just over eight minutes to play.
But Detto secured the win on the next PRC possession, as he calmly nailed a pressure-packed 33-yard field goal to give PRC the final 24-15 lead with six minutes to play.
Kubicki led PRC with 117 yards rushing.
“I have to give a lot of credit to our defense,” Collins concluded. “To hold a team that is that explosive on offense to 15 points is a tremendous effort.”
Next week’s South State championship game is a re-match of three weeks ago, when PRC beat Pascagoula 26-20.
PRC fell to Picayune in the Class 5A South State championship game last year, and the Maroon Tide went on to win the state title.
Wayne County ends the season at 9-3.