Hornets move to third round of playoffs

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 10, 2018

By Elton Hayes

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Throughout the season, Poplarville has leaned heavily on an experienced offensive line, and the formula has produced a backfield that’s accumulated more than 3,000 yards rushing.

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The Hornets again called on their five senior offensive linemen to open the lanes for their running backs, and the upperclassmen didn’t disappoint.

Poplarville tallied five rushing touchdowns Friday to earn a 40-8 road win at Northeast Lauderdale in the second round of the MHSAA Class 4A playoffs.

“We have a senior-heavy group right here, and they have a lot of experience in these type of games,” Poplarville coach Jay Beech said. “So the moment is not too big for them. We just took it one play at a time there and were able to put together some drives against a very tough defense.”

The win improved the Hornets to 11-1 and ended Northeast Lauderdale’s season at 7-5. Poplarville will face South Pike next Friday in the third round of the Class 4A postseason.

Chase Shears had scoring runs of 15 and 23 yards, Antonio Barnes scored on runs of 20 and 15 yards, and Cory Knight tallied touchdown runs of 2 and 40 yards.

Poplarville scored touchdowns on its first five drives of the game and on its opening first drive of the second half. The Hornets’ lone punt of the night occurred with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Following the game, Northeast Lauderdale players huddled around one another on the damp, soggy field and exchanged words of encouragement. Several fought back tears, while others shared hugs.

“I think we’ll look back at some point and say this was a great year,” Northeast Lauderdale coach John Douglass said. “Right now, you hate it for these seniors. It’s hard on them; it’s hard on me. But that’s the life we live in. There are winners and there are losers in just about everything that these young men are going to go do, and they have to understand that they’re not always going to be on top, and what happens next and how they respond and how they react, that’s going to be the true value or judge of their character.”

Shears scored his first touchdown of the night on a 15-yard run with 8:10 left in the first quarter to give Poplarville a 6-0 lead after the missed extra point.

Barnes’ 20-yard run with 6:07 remaining in the first quarter extended the Hornets’ lead to 12-0 following the failed two-point conversion attempt.

Knight ran for a 2-yard touchdown with 2:45 left in the opening period, and Ethan Spiers added the PAT to push Poplarville ahead 19-0.

Shears added his second rushing touchdown of the night on a 13-yard run with 7:46 remaining before intermission, and Spiers’ PAT upped the Hornets’ advantage to 26-0.

With 2:42 left in the second quarter, Barnes scored on a 2-yard run to give the Hornets a 33-0 lead after Spiers’ PAT.

Poplarville led Northeast Lauderdale 33-0 at halftime.

Knight tallied the Hornets’ final score of the contest with a 40-yard touchdown scamper with 7:56 left in the third quarter. Spiers’ extra-point kick stretched the lead to 40-0.

“That’s what got us here: our rushing attack and our offensive line,” Beech said. “They’re a good group, and we rely on them to pave the way for us.”

Northeast Lauderdale was able to get on the scoreboard after a 20-yard run by Michael McClinton with 11:01 left in the fourth quarter, and Kam Hulin carried in the two-point conversion.