High expectations for Pear River County football

Published 4:50 pm Thursday, August 5, 2021

Residents in Pearl River County love their local football teams, so they may be glad to hear that even though a new strain of COVID-19 is causing concerns at this time there are no planned restrictions for spectators this season. As of right now Picayune, Poplarville and Pearl River Central will play their full football schedules, and fans can be in the stands with out mask or social distancing mandates.


The student athletes are excited to be playing once again. Each head coach has emphasized to their players the importance of getting through adversity because situations can change during this upcoming season.

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In his second year as head coach for the Picayune Memorial High School’s Maroon Tide, Cody Stogner is seeking a district and state championship. With the team’s first game coming Aug. 27 against Poplarville’s Hornets, Stogner strives for perfection.

“Each week and each day we work to get there,” said Stogner.

The Picayune football team establishes a family culture, good work ethic and a desire to win. At the end of the day Stogner wants his players to, “get an education, possibly get a scholarship, play at the next level, but ultimately see them become good fathers, good husbands and great members of the community.”

COVID guidelines could change at any time, so Stogner makes sure his players are prepared. This team has handled sudden changes well.

“People underestimate this generation’s adversity. Many changes happened within our program because of COVID, and they deserve credit for pushing through,” Stogner preaches to his team to not be scared of anything and “in the hour of adversity I will stand with no fear.”

For Stogner, high school football is the most pure sport. He loves coaching at this level and seeing his kids develop and blossom from incoming freshmen to young men as they graduate.

“It’s fun to be around them, the students here and the community,” said Stogner.

Poplarville High School Head Football Coach Jay Beech will be heading into his 11th season with the team, and his goal is to win every game this year. Striving for a district and state championship, Beech has put his players in the best condition and physical shape.

“We are very excited about this year,” said Beech. Poplarville’s first game is Aug. 27 vs. Picayune. COVID has not affected this program but there is anxiety about what COVID could do, mixed in with the excitement to play football.

Beech reminds his players and staff to, “worry about the things we can control, and take one thing at a time.”

Beech loves to see his kids achieve their goals while watching them grow into young men.

In his fourth year as head coach for Pearl River Central High School’s Blue Devils, Jacob Owen is prepared to win a lot more football games. The last few years, Peal River Central has come up short in the playoffs.

Since last November, Owen has focused a lot on developing leadership and teaching his kids how to lead by having a selfless attitude.

“I want us to be a team that plays together and for each other,” said Owen.

On Aug. 20, Pearl River Central will play in a jamboree at Bay High School but the team’s first official game of the season is set for Aug. 27 vs. Hancock. They also picked up their first out of state game in Louisiana set for Nov 10.

Owen said he has a great group of kids who work really hard on and off the field.

“Love your brothers, be tough always, and work hard,” are the three core values Owen has brought to his team. These are things that drive the team’s culture. They strive to be a tough group of guys that put themselves in situations to succeed because of their work ethic, energy and enthusiasm. The players also voted on core values to follow, choosing passion, resilience and commitment. What Owen loves about coaching is the preparation; he has an in-depth schedule every week from the end of Friday’s game all the way through next week’s kick-off. His preparation involves film sessions with his coaching staff and players, scouting reports, workouts, and holding practices.

Peal River Central has no bye-week scheduled this year, so they’re preparing for 11 straight weeks of football.