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Petal visits PICAYUNE

A pair of unbeaten teams that played for state championships last season face off in Picayune Saturday night.

The Maroon Tide, defending Class 5A state champs, take on visiting Petal at 7:30. The Panthers fell in the Class 6A state title game last season.

Both teams are coming off impressive season opening road wins as well, as Picayune beat Biloxi 42-35 in overtime and Petal handed homestanding Wayne County a 38-14 thumping.

“I think they are better than they were last year,” veteran Picayune head coach Dodd Lee said, of the Panthers. “I think their quarterback is better and they are bigger and faster up front than they were. They played really well against Wayne County.”

Last season, Picayune nipped the Panthers, led by the statewide player of the year Anthony Alford, 17-14 on a field goal at the end of the game.

Alford has gone on to Southern Mississippi, and has been replaced by Larson Barkurn. Barkurn is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior that played some against Picayune last season.

Barkurn completed 8-of-14 passes for 95 yards, and ran for 52 yards on 10 carries adding another touchdown on the ground against the War Eagles.

One of Barkurn’s top targets is USM commitment Jamarcus Reivies. He averaged almost 27 yards per catch last season, and had an 11 yard scoring catch in the season opening win.

Petal’s backfield got a boost in the spring, when Poplarville standout running back Tyus Raine transferred to the Panther program. Rain provided a key performance as well in the big win over Wayne as he ran 31 times for 157 yards and a touchdown.

The game marked the first for Marcus Boyles as Petal’s head coach, and he just happened to be playing against the team he led to three state titles over the past 10 years as well as several big wins over Picayune.

Lee liked what he saw in his teams win over Biloxi.

“I was proud of the way our kids came through and made plays to get the win,” Lee added. “They showed a lot of character in continuing to play hard and hanging in there until the end.”

Picayune was led by junior tailback Preston Dedeaux, who ran the ball an almost mind-boggling 50 times for 310 yards and four scores.

“We can’t do that to him every game. I didn’t realize we had given it to him that many times,” Lee said. “But he played a great game. He still wanted the ball and gave a great effort every time he touched it.”

The Tide defense shut down the Indians explosive offense for most of the first half, but eventually Biloxi quarterback Jaylen Woullard threw for three touchdowns and helped the Indians overcome a pair of two touchdown deficits and send the game into overtime.

“We have to play better on defense, without a doubt we have to,” Lee concluded. But I believe we have the guys that can get it done over there.”

The Maroon Tide gets another chance to show that on Saturday.