Laurel scores 35-points unanswered, beats Picayune 45-27

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2016

Shaun Anderson (20) returns a punt 70 yards for a Maroon Tide touchdown during the South State Championship game on Friday against Laurel. Photo by Taylor Welsh

Shaun Anderson (20) returns a punt 70 yards for a Maroon Tide touchdown during the South State Championship game on Friday against Laurel. Photo by Taylor Welsh

Friday night’s game between Picayune and Laurel was a tornado of momentum, which ended golden for Laurel as the team became South State Champions after shutting out Picayune’s offense in the second half, beating the Tide 45-27.

On the first possession of the third quarter, the Maroon Tide had a fourth and inches play call on their own 29-yard line which led to the downfall of Picayune.

“On fourth down, I ran our best football play and we didn’t get it. That really opened the door for Laurel,” Picayune Head Football Coach Dodd Lee said.

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After the turnover on downs, Golden Tornados quarterback Tyquan Ulmer threw a 7-yard dart to his receiver Dontario Drummond for a touchdown with 7:04 to go in the third quarter, launching Laurel’s comeback.

After forcing Picayune to punt on their succeeding drive, Laurel found an offensive groove and scored twice within 36 seconds; first with a 17-yard pass to Anthony Jones and then—after a Josh Littles fumble—the Golden Tornado’s Michael Terrell ran in the go-ahead touchdown 8-yards out, taking a 31-27 lead with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter.

“Going into halftime I kept telling the team that we can’t stop no matter what happens. This is a tough place to play and I am proud of our team,” Laurel Head Football Coach Todd Breland said.

The game started out rocky for the Maroon Tide as they lost a fumble on their second play from scrimmage at the team’s own 6-yard line. However, the Tide defense held Laurel to a 26-yard field goal from Harris Hauenstein. On the subsequent Tide possession, a touchdown drive—set up by a 47-yard Littles run—ended with David Baker punching in a 4-yard run, giving Picayune a 7-3 lead with 4:55 to go in the first quarter.

Picayune felt the first wave of momentum Friday night as they forced Laurel to punt on their ensuing possession and after 12 plays, Tide quarterback Skylar Bowman found a wide open V.J. Holt for a 33-yard touchdown pass to take an early 13-3 lead after a missed extra-point attempt.

The Maroon Tide’s momentum peaked Friday night after Shaun Anderson returned a Laurel punt 70 yards for another touchdown, giving Picayune a comfortable 20-3 lead with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

Laurel would respond with a time-consuming drive of their own, which ended with Golden Tornado receiver Devonte Smith rolling over a Picayune defender and stretching the ball across the end zone for Laurel’s first touchdown of the game with 3:47 remaining in the half.

Picayune responded with an 11-yard touchdown run by Littles with 25.7 seconds to go in the half, which would be the last time Picayune scored.

“We were where we wanted to be going into the half,” Lee said. “You have to give credit to Laurel. They are a great team.”

After the game-changing call to go on fourth and inches on the Tide’s own 29-yardline, the game was out of reach for Picayune as Laurel scored 35 unanswered points to solidify their spot in the Class 5A State Championship game on Dec. 3 in Starkville.

“This was a huge win for us,” Ulmer said. “We came in here with the mindset that we were the big dogs and we never looked back. Now it’s time to get a ring.”

Breland said he knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming to Picayune to play in the South State Championship game.

“Coach Lee is a tremendous coach and has an impeccable program here in Picayune. This game was not easy, and they really gave it their all,” Breland said. “Tyquan (Ulmer) came up big for us. To see how far he has come to get to this point is probably the best success story I have ever seen in my life. I am happy for him and this team, but our journey isn’t over yet.”