City of Picayune celebrates state title with victory parade
By Will Sullivan
The crowd was jubilant as the State’s Division 5-A champions filed through their ranks to a place of honor around the fountain in front of City Hall.
The championship football team with the band, Pride of the Tide, color guard and cheerleaders had just paraded on foot down Goodyear Boulevard from the high school to City Hall.
This is the second time in three years the Picayune Maroon Tide team has won the state championship in its division.
A podium was set up next to the area where the team gathered and klieg lights in a field across the street from City Hall and next to First Baptist Church lit up the field and the front of City Hall.
The city was celebrating its championship team — loudly.
Several speakers came to the podium to make laudatory remarks about the championship team, but perhaps two meant the most to the team and the crowd.
Picayune School Superintendent Dean Shaw told the story of a recent trip he made from New Orleans back to Picayune. A former Picayune Memorial High School student was in the car with him.
The former student, Miller Johnson, had moved to Picayune from Slidell, La.
“I had the privilege of riding back from New Orleans … with a young man who told me why he loves Picayune and the football team,” Shaw said.
Johnson, Shaw said, had attended Slidell High before the family moved to Picayune, and when he was a freshman, he went to the school’s football coach and asked if he could be the water boy.
“The coach said ‘no’,” Shaw said young Johnson told him.
When he started attending Picayune Memorial High School, Johnson approached Maroon Tide Coach Dodd Lee with the same request, to be water boy.
“ ‘We practice this afternoon. Be there’,” Shaw said Lee told Johnson.
Johnson was water boy in 2011, his junior year in Picayune, became a team member his senior year and, after graduating in 2012, returned this year as a volunteer assistant coach, Shaw said.
Shaw also told of his and Tabatha Smith’s, Lee’s daughter, desperate search for some quarter pounder hamburgers from McDonald’s — without onions or pickles — and some apple pies for the team, coaches, band, Pride of the Tide and cheerleaders to have after the game.
The 300 quarter pounders and 300 apple pies were to be delivered by 9:30 p.m. Smith called Shaw from outside the Memorial Stadium in Jackson, where the championship game was being played, at 9:45 and said the food hadn’t been delivered and they couldn’t get anybody at McDonald’s on the phone. The two left in search of the food.
“When we left, the team was down by 14 points,” Shaw said.
With the help of a Jackson police officer, Smith and Shaw were able to run down the food and returned to the game in the fourth quarter to find the Tide was leading by 14 points.
Shaw also noted that Picayune Junior High’s team had gone undefeated for two seasons, and “I know our coaches look forward to working with these young men;”
Coach Lee came to the podium to a rousing reception from the crowd and his team.
Lee thanked all the people who came out for the celebration and his team.
“If you came to every game, or if you came to only one game or if you didn’t come to any game, I thank you for showing up tonight,” Lee said. He said he, his coaches and team could not have won the championship without the support of the fans, the school district, the school board and the whole community.
After he left the podium, he was called back for the presentation of a banner from he Mississippi High School Activities Association and Farm Bureau.
Todd Kelley of the MSHAA and Sean Keener of the Mississippi Farm Bureau presented Lee and the team a banner heralding their championship.
Lee also was given a key to the city by Mayor Ed Pinero, along with a proclamation proclaiming Thursday, Dec. 20, ;as Picayune Football and Dodd Lee Day.
Asked Friday how he felt about having two championships under his belt, Lee said he had been asked that right after the game said, “I said I really don’t know, but everybody ought to feel like this just once.”
The ceremonies at City Hall opened with a short statement by City Manager Jim Luke welcoming everybody followed by a prayer from student John Victory and the National Anthem sung by teacher Sherry Lawley.
During the remarks by various officials Pinero welcomed the crowd, the team and the coaches and explained to the crowd that the band, Pride of the Tide dance team, color guard and cheerleaders would perform at times during the celebration.
Football boosters club president Sandy Kane Smith told the crowd how to buy T-shirts and other clothing with the team’s name and logo on them that is helping the boosters raise money to buy championship rings for the team’s members and for the coaches. He also asked for donations for that purpose.
The celebration closed with Pinero tossing bags of Funyons to the crowd calling the onion-flavored treat “the breakfast of champions.”
Operations Manager Harvey Miller explained to the Item prior to the celebration that Oxford fans had posted a video on Facebook that included words stating the scoreboard at the end of the game would have all zeros for Picayune and compared those zeros to Funyons.