By James Jones
PERKINSTON — Behind two 100-yard rushers, Picayune captured the Region 4-5A championship.
Gerrell Keaton and Kardarius Cross combined for 301 yards rushing and three touchdowns as the Maroon Tide pounded Stone 21-0 on Friday night at A.L. May Stadium.
The Maroon Tide (9-1, 6-1) will host rival Pearl River Central in a first-round playoff game next week at Picayune Memorial Stadium. Stone (5-6, 3-4) was eliminated from the playoffs because East Central beat George County 35-32.
“The kids played hard,” Picayune coach Dodd Lee said. “We did what we always do: run the football.”
Keaton finished with 170 yards and now has 1,367 yards on the season. Cross, who also plays cornerback, finished with 131 yards for the defending 5A champions.
“It was important to beat Stone and win our Region,” Cross said. “We have a young team and I have to be the leader.”
Stone tried trickery in the first half, but nothing worked. The Tomcats opened the game with an onside kick, but the Maroon Tide recovered near midfield. A halfback pass was almost intercepted in the red zone.
Cross’ 1-yard touchdown run gave the Maroon Tide a 7-0 first quarter lead.
Picayune committed three turnovers, including two fumbles in the second quarter that allowed Stone to hang around.
Chris Blanchard and Larry Hartfield each made fumble recoveries. Caleb Amacker had an interception.
Stone couldn’t capitalize and reached inside Picayune’s 30-yard-line twice. A holding penalty negated Tavarus Fairley’s 14 yard run and the Tomcats turned it over on downs with 4:11 left in half.
Late in the second quarter, Cross’ 63-yard TD run padded the Maroon Tide lead to 14-0 at halftime.
Gerrell Keaton’s five-yard TD run with 8:45 left to play wrapped up the Region 4-5A championship for Picayune.
Lee, however, is concerned about the Maroon Tide’s fumbling issues.
“Our defense did a great job, but we can’t keep turning it over,” Lee said. “We can’t have four fumbles against a good team and expect to win.”