Prediction: Poplarville will have their cake and eat it too

Published 7:00 am Saturday, December 3, 2016

Poplarville 38, Lafayette 21: The first-time South State champs are one of the hottest teams in Mississippi, and the only team still in the running for a state title in the southern most region of the state.

The Hornets’ have been grinding their way through the postseason, outscoring their opponents 198-59 during their historic run to Starkville against a valiant Lafayette team.

The Commodores have yet to defend against a wing-T style offense, in which all of the Hornets’ weapons are on the field at the same time. Poplarville’s Austin Bolton seems to be a question mark for Saturday’s title game with a sprained ankle injury from the South State Championship game last week. Poplarville Head Coach Jay Beech is optimistic about Bolton’s readiness for the Class 4A championship tilt. However, if Bolton does suit up, he will not be at 100 percent. Without a doubt, Bolton has a skill set that cannot be replaced by another individual, but luckily for the Hornets, they have more than one weapon in their arsenal.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Tyson Holston has been a quiet assassin for the Hornets this season and mimics Bolton’s catching and rushing abilities. Holston has big play potential due to his speed and the team’s quarterback, Antonio Barnes, ability to roll out of the pocket and deliver a strike to Holston past the opposing secondary.

However, the heartbeat of the Hornets’ offense is its underrated offensive line. This group—some of which have battled in the trenches together since the seventh grade—has opened gaps for their talented backfield all season long, resulting in 4,934 total rushing yards.

This offensive line will face potentially its hardest test yet against a stout Lafayette defense. The Commodores have multiple Division-I talent on offense and defense. Junior running back Jamarcus Quarles turns the wheels for the Lafayette offense, eclipsing 2,000 yards and finding the end zone 18 times. Also, the Commodores’ leading receiver, Tyler Carmichael-Williams, is a Mississippi State University signee who has 37 receptions for 718 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

Poplarville might not have standout Division-I talent, but what they do have is something that is just as good, if not better. The Hornets have a 16-man senior class, 12 of which have started two or three years on varsity, including senior fullback Jesse Pernell.

The experience of the Hornets is going to be crucial as a deciding factor in this game, but what will be key for Poplarville is their bruiser Pernell.

Pernell has proven to be an unstoppable force between the tackles, but also has breakout speed to produce big plays for the Hornets. He is not afraid of contact, and can run through arm tackles like a children’s game of Red Rover.

However, I believe the best defense on Saturday night will be homebound with some new hardware. Lafayette’s defense has been impressive this season, but all statistics go out the window today. This game will be decided by the tenacity and will to win, which is something I think Poplarville has in spades. Poplarville’s defense has the ability to get to the quarterback, which I think will fluster Lafayette’s offensive attack, forcing them to squander much needed possessions.