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Poplarville looking to move forward after championship loss

Four state championship appearances in the past five years has led to the Poplarville Hornets establishing themselves as one of the premier football programs in south Mississippi, but dealing with the sting of losing to the Louisville Wildcats in the 2020 state championship game has led to some reflection.

It’s been nearly two weeks since Poplarville lost 15-14 in a nail biter game to the Wildcats, and the pain was visible along the Hornets’ sideline following the tough loss.

Now that there’s been some time to look back on the season, Head Coach Jay Beech said he’s happy with what his team accomplished this year.

“After you step back and are a few weeks from it, I don’t think anybody around here should dwell on that. We should appreciate the great year we had, great moments and great wins. We had an outstanding season that we were able to put together,” Beech said.

Not only did the team once again play for a state title, but the Hornets did so during a year plagued by the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, the players and coaches were able to adapt and overcome the circumstances en route to another dominant season.

“I think our kids did a great job, the coaching staff did a great job. We didn’t have one football player test positive all year. We lost multiple kids to close contact tracing, but we didn’t have any kid test positive during the season. We were fortunate, but we also did a good job of trying to keep stuff clean,” Beech said.

Making an appearance at the state championship game has become an annual expectation for the Hornets after reaching that point so many times in the past five years.

That success, along with the caliber of players the program is producing, has created a winning culture and mindset that applies to everyone from incoming freshmen to veteran seniors.

“A lot of the things we do offensively and defensively doesn’t look really flashy, but give the kids credit, they do it to the best of their ability. They’ve noticed with the success we’ve had that there’s an expectation now that if you do what your coaches tell you to do it’s proven you’re going to win,” Beech said.

Dealing with such a heartbreaking loss takes time, and there’s been a recovery period for the athletes and coaches following the big game.

However, come 2021, the Hornets will be back on the grind again in hopes of brining home a trophy.

“In January we’ll come back with a new focus and new determination. We’ll use Christmas break to get over this, come back and try to make another run at it,” Beech said.