Maroon Tide defends title

Published 11:16 pm Saturday, November 3, 2007

Down 14-3 at halftime to visiting D’Iberville, Picayune needed something to break out of a rare offensive slump.

So the Maroon Tide just drew something up.

Picayune, ranked thid in the state in Class 4A, bounced back to outscore the Warriors 27-7 in the second half and capture the battle for the Division 8-4A championship 30-21 before a standing room only crowd of over 5,000 at Maroon Tide Stadium.

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The win was the eighth in a row for Picayune (8-1, 6-0), as the Maroon Tide handed the Warriors (9-1, 5-1) their first loss of the season in a battle of ranked powers. D’Iberville came in fifth in the rankings.

Two of the biggest plays for Picayune came on a pass over the middle from quarterback Caleb Hickman to wingback Reggie Bailey, one for a 50-yard completion and the second a 51-yard scoring strike that sealed the win late in the game.

It was the first time this season the Maroon Tide had run the play.

“We kind of drew it up at halftime,” the versatile standout Bailey, who starts at both wingback and safety for Picayune, said. “We saw that the corner on my side was cheating up a little bit and leaving a big hole in the middle of the field, so we decided to try it and it worked.”

Those two pass plays, along with a crippling running attack by Picayune in the second half that allowed the Maroon Tide to keep the ball for almost 20 of the 24 minutes of play after halftime, combined to give the Maroon Tide the impressive comeback win.

“Our kids played a great second half, you have to hand it to them,” veteran Picayune head coach Dodd Lee said. “We executed well in the second half and we kept them off the field, and we thought we saw a thing or two we could take advantage of and we did.”

D’Iberville came into the game averaging 45 points per game, while Picayune had averaged 46 points per game in its last five wins.

“I think they wanted it a little more than we did there in the second half,” D’Iberville head coach Louis Smith, whose team joiuned Division 8-4A this year after many seasons in Division 7-4A, said. “We didn’t have the ball hardly any in the second half, and that’s coach Lee’s philosophy. They controlled the ball and took advantage of some break downs in coverage we had.”

Picayune broke on top early on a 32 yard field goal by Leo Gonzalez. But the Warriors bounced back to take the halftime lead thanks to an 86-yard scoring run by Mark Seymour and a 2-yard scoring run by Darius Brown with just 22 seconds to play in the second half.

The second half then became a boxing match of sorts, as each team threw repeated punches at one another.

Picayune opened the third quarter by cutting the deficit to 14-10 on a 14-yard scoring run by Albert Richard, only to watch the Warriors respond with a 1-yard sneak by Mark Wright to make it 21-10.

Hickman and Bailey then hooked up on their first big play of the night on the next series, putting the ball at the D’Iberville 14, and Richard helped Picayune cut the deficit to four again on the next play with his second scoring scamper.

The Maroon Tide then came up with the defensive play of the game on the Warriors’ ensuing series, as Brandon Jurich recovered a Seymour fumble at the Warrior 30, and Kell Goff scored from 19 yards out two plays later to give Picayune the lead for good.

Hickman hit Bailey on the second big play of the half on a third and 12 play with 4:30 to play to seal the win.

“Caleb did a real good job of getting the ball to me on those plays,” Bailey added.

Hickman, the senior signal-caller, had the best game of his career as he completed five of eight passes for 181 yards including going 4-for-4 in the second half.

Richard had 134 yards on the ground for Picayune, while Seymour had 124 for D’Iberville.

“We wanted to keep the ball away from them as much as possible because we knew they could score,” Lee concluded. “To do that you have to execute well, and that’s what we were able to do in the second half.”

Picayune’s T’Daryl Grays had two interceptions for the Maroon Tide and Brandon Marble also had a fumble recovery in the seocnd half for the home team as well.

Picayune hosts Gautier to open the Class 4A playoffs on Friday while D’Iberville hosts Vancleave.

The Maroon Tide and the Gators have never met on the football field. Gautier beat St. Martin 27-3 Friday..