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Picayune beats Laurel 41-22

By Mark Thornton

Laurel Leader Call

With sand lining the sides of the soggy field, the Maroon Tide rolled

in and swept Laurel out of the playoffs, 41-22, Friday night.

Kade Turnage had two touchdown runs and returned an interception for a momentum-swinging score in the second quarter to lead Picayune as it punched its ticket to the South State championship game.

Sophomore quarterback Xavier Evans ran for a score and had two TD passes — and two interceptions — as Laurel ended its season at 10-4. The Tide (11-3) advances to play another team from Jones County for the South State title next Friday. West Jones (11-2) was a surprise 37-14 winner over No. 1 Hattiesburg (13-1) just down the road.

“That interception in the first half was a real momentum-changer,” Picayune Head Coach Dodd Lee said. “We thought they were primarily a Picayune’s defense pushed the Tornadoes’ offense back ontheir next possession, forcing them into a third-and-40. But Evans found Bryce Page for a 20-yard gain, then threw a 30-yard scoring strike to Jontarius Henderson on fourth-and-20. Levi Walker’s two-point run pulled Laurel within 12 points, 34-22, with 5:40 remaining.

But the Tide recovered the onside kick, and six plays later, Raine dashed in from 14 yards out and Brice’s kick gave the visitors a 41-22 cushion with 2:37 left.

With senior quarterback Sinclair Ulmer in the game, Picayune’s Juvonta Raymond picked off a pass to wrap it in maroon and white.

A Laurel win would have set up a rematch with archrival West Jones with a 5A state championship game at Southern Miss on the line. Breland said that wasn’t mentioned as a motivating factor for his team at halftime.

“I didn’t even know the score until just now,” he said, minutes after he finished talking to his team on the field. “I wouldn’t trade this team for any team on the planet.”

Asked if he was surprised to be playing West Jones instead of Hattiesburg, Lee said, “We don’t care who we play. I’m just glad the kids have the opportunity to play another one.”

The Tide lost a heartbreaker to Laurel, 42-35, to end their season last year. But revenge wasn’t a factor, Lee insisted.

“Nothing was even said about that,” he said. “We want to beat whoever we’re playing.”