Hornets’ historic season etched in stone
Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 1, 2016
The 2016 Poplarville Hornets displayed accomplishments on the football field never before seen in the history of the program. But, the team’s opening season loss to St. Martin would’ve made any fan consider how far the Hornets have come seem impossible.
“After losing against St. Martin, we made it a mission to not lose again. We knew we were going on a streak after that loss,” senior captain Chad Hart said. “We shouldn’t have lost it in the first place.”
And on a streak they went, beating their rival Pearl River Central for the first time since 2009 and then beating Lumberton 44-12, who is playing for the Class 1A State Championship on Friday.
Then came the Stone County game on Sept. 9 at home.
“We had to overcome a lot of adversity to beat Stone County. We had a big lead, then got behind and had to kick a field goal and score late to win that one,” Poplarville Head Football Coach Jay Beech said. “We set a goal in the off-season that we would fight and win every game we played and I was really proud of the kids after that game.”
Beech, along with the senior captains Hart, Jesse Pernell, Austin Arceneaux, and Camden Ray, said the reason for their success started in the summer.
“The summer off-season training was no joke. If you can make it through that, you can make it through anything,” Hart said.
Beech’s goal, along with the rest of the coaching staff, was to create a group of tough kids during the off-season.
“We were more focused on creating tough kids than strong kids, even though they ended up tougher and stronger. We worked them real hard and prepared them physically and mentally so the game comes easier for them,” Beech said.
Although they were already on a six-game winning streak, Beech said the turning point for the Hornets came after beating Purvis 38-6 on Oct. 21. Purvis had beaten Poplarville four years in a row, knocked them out of the playoffs twice and kept them from winning the district championship last year.
“They kind of had our number,” Beech said. “But we were able to beat them this year and the way we did it made us feel like we had something special.”
This season, the Hornets had the most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in a single-season since 2004, with 4,934 yards and 66 touchdowns.
Pernell led the team with 26 touchdowns, which complimented his team-second best 1,614 total rushing yards this season. Austin Bolton led the team in total rushing yards (1,701) and reached the end zone 21 times this season.
With all of this talent coming from the Poplarville backfield, Hornets’ quarterback Antonio Barnes has flown under the radar this year with 12 passing touchdowns and a 110.9 quarterback rating. The Hornets are proud to be able to make school history, but they are putting that accomplishment back in the closet as they have had only one mission ahead, to win a state championship.
“We want to finish the deal. We don’t just want to get here, we want to bring home another trophy to Poplarville,” Beech said. “It doesn’t matter what game it is, we just want to win every game we play.”
After winning the South State Championship against Florence 42-14, the Hornets travel to Starkville Saturday to prove they are the best Class 4A team in Mississippi.