By Dwayne Bremer
Special to the Item
LONG BEACH — A well-balanced offense and a hard-hitting defense were a formula for victory Friday evening for coach Chris Teal and his Poplarville Hornets, as they notched their first win of the season–a 27-0 shellacking of the Long Beach Bearcats.
“We have been working hard to get to this point,” Teal said afterwards. “Tonight was a big step for us.”
The Hornets jumped on the Bearcats early, taking the opening possession 69 yards for the game’s initial touchdown.
Quarterback Dakota Sheppard got things going with a seven-yard pass to Ira White. Two plays after a 17-yard run by Ben Fayard, White busted loose for 29 more to get the Hornets inside the ten.
White ended the drive with a bruising five-yard run in which he ran over two tackles for the touchdown.
Shelby Purvis added the point-after and the Hornets had an early 7-0 lead.
White finished the game with 106 yards on 16 carries, despite only having two carries in the second half. Fayard added 66 yards on seven carries.
“Ira had a breakout evening,” Teal said. “The offense really gelled.”
Long Beach had its best scoring chance of the evening on the initial drive after Poplarville’s score.
The Bearcats drove 56 yards on ten plays before running back Dimitry Smith fumbled at the five. Blaine Northrop recovered the fumble for the Hornets.
After a defensive struggle for most of the second quarter, the Hornets put together their most impressive drive of the evening to close out the first half.
Taking over with just over three minutes remaining, the Hornets drove 98 yards in nine plays to take a 14-0 lead into the half.
Sheppard started the drive with an 11-yard run. After runs of nine and six by White, Sheppard connected with Adam Thomas for 21 yards. Three plays later, Sheppard hit Dexter Childs for 30 yards to the Bearcat three.
Sheppard finished the game with six completions on nine attempts for 94 yards. White capped the drive with a three-yard score and Purvis added the point after with only :17 to play in the half.
In the second half, it was the Hornet defense’s turn to step up.
The Hornets only ran five offensive plays in the third quarter, but the defense stopped Long Beach twice on fourth down conversions deep in Hornet territory.
The first Bearcat drive was stopped when Nick Peters made a nice open-field tackle at the seven.
On the next Bearcat drive, Irvin Brown sacked Bearcat quarterback Anthony D’Angelo at the 35.
The Hornets tallied seven sacks and six tackles for losses on the evening. Brown netted 3.5 sacks and Seth Sones, Colt Peterson, Gage Whitten, Kenneth Lewis, and Desmond Hart, and others cashed in, as well.
With 6:17 remaining, the Hornets took over at the 49 after stopping yet another fourth down attempt.
After a penalty, Gabriel Rhodes rumbled 45 yards to the Bearcat 15. Thomas then took a pitch around the right side and tumbled into the end-zone for a 15-yard score. Purvis added the point after and the Hornets had a commanding 21-0 lead.
The defense put the icing on the cake on the Bearcats’ next drive when Adam Naquin hit D’Angelo and caused a wounded-duck pass to be intercepted by Eli Frierson.
Frierson picked up a few blocks and took the interception all the way back for a 68-yard touchdown.
The point after failed, but the game was effectively over at 27-0 with just two minutes to play.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, players celebrated the victory by dousing Coach Teal with the water bucket.
“It came along really well tonight,” Teal said. “We have been instilling this since day one. We had a few starters out tonight and a lot of young guys really stepped up.”
“The coaches really make some good calls and we had good execution,” said senior Seth Sones. “It feels really good to play this well.”
The Hornets will now face the toughest part of their schedule as they travel to D’Iberville next week and then play rival Picayune at home before Homecoming against Pearl River Central on Oct. 10.
“Ira had a breakout evening. The offense really gelled.”
Poplarville head coach