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Poplarville loses heartbreaker to Purvis

VALIANT EFFORT: Poplarville quarterback Austin Darden is swarmed by Purvis defenders during the Hornets fourth quarter comeback.  Photo by Dart Spiers

VALIANT EFFORT: Poplarville quarterback Austin Darden is swarmed by Purvis defenders during the Hornets fourth quarter comeback.
Photo by Dart Spiers

Poplarville overcame a 14-point second half deficit to tie the game, but their comeback hopes fell just short as the Hornets’ last-second field goal attempt narrowly missed, leaving the Purvis Tornadoes to win 31-28 to advance to the 4A South State Finals.

After Purvis kicker Brady Farlow hit a 41-yard field goal to give the Tornadoes a 31-28 lead, the Poplarville offense had two minutes to get into scoring position to attempt to tie the game. The Hornets drove from their own 33-yard line down to the Tornadoes 15-yard line before a penalty moved them back five yards. With only three seconds remaining, the Hornets missed a field goal that would have tied the game.

“When you invest so much time and effort into this, and you love these guys so much it hurts to lose,” said Head Coach Jay Beech, “But I’m proud of the way we played tonight. It showed our character.”

It was a back and forth contest all night. Poplarville running back Jonathan Martin opened the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run on the Hornets first drive, making the score 7-0 with 7:16 left to play in the first quarter.

On the following drive, it looked as though Purvis would not be able to capitalize on a kickoff return that gave them excellent field position near the 50-yard line. The Poplarville defense forced a third down and long, but quarterback Nathan Roseberry found tight end Carl Morris for a 51-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:41 left in the first quarter.

After a Poplarville turnover on downs, Purvis drove down the field, running the ball on nine consecutive plays. A gutsy fourth down conversion gave the Tornadoes a first and goal, and wide receiver Cody Slade scored a 5-yard rushing touchdown on the very next play to bring the score to 14-7 with 8:56 remaining in the second quarter.

The Poplarville offense and running back Malik Lucas responded on the Hornets ensuing drive, gashing Purvis for 80 yards rushing on seven plays. Lucas finished the drive with a 23-yard touchdown run to tie the game 14-14 with 5:20 left to play in the half.

A screen pass from Roseberry to running back Steven Curtis on third and 11 kept Purvis’ next drive alive, and a few plays later, Roseberry scored a 45-yard rushing touchdown with 2:37 left to play in the first half. Purvis held a 21-14 lead at halftime.

The Purvis offense scored on the opening drive of the second half. With 9:09 left to play in the third quarter, Roseberry scored from three yards out to give Purvis a commanding 28-14 lead.

But the Hornets would not quit. The Poplarville offense went on a seven play, 80-yard scoring drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown run from running back Jesse Pernell that cut the Purvis lead to 28-21 with 1:58 left to play in the third quarter.

The Hornets defense forced an impressive three-and-out and the Poplarville offense got the ball back to start the fourth quarter. A long pass from quarterback Austin Darden to Martin set up full back Tyler Fricke for a 3-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 28-28 with 6:25 left to play.

The Purvis offense quickly drove the ball inside the Poplarville 5-yard line, but a fumbled snap gave the Hornets possession of the ball.

The game’s first turnover was immediately followed by the game’s second turnover, as Poplarville fumbled to give the ball back to the Tornadoes on the Poplarville 28-yard line.

The Hornets defense held their ground, only allowing a 41-yard field goal from Barlow with 2:37 remaining, and giving their offense the ball back with a chance to tie or win. The Poplarville offense moved the ball well on their last drive, but the clock was not on their side. The missed field goal brought the Hornets’ season to a close.

Purvis will play St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis next Fridaynight, with the winner advancing to the state championship game.