LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - Tyquan Ulmer has no problem mixing Thanksgiving and football, especially when he and his Laurel High School teammates are chasing the school's first state championship since 2014.
"I don't even care about the Thanksgiving," Ulmer said after the Golden Tornadoes defeated Hattiesburg High School 45-42 last week to reach the Class 5A South State title game. "It was sweet because it gave me another Friday and another chance to win the state championship."
To do that, Laurel (12-1) will have to get past Picayune High School (12-1) on the Maroon Tide's home turf.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday, with the winner heading to Starkville Dec. 3 to face the winner of the North State title game between West Point High School (12-1) and Lake Cormorant High School (10-4).
The meeting marks the fourth consecutive season that the Golden Tornadoes have reached the South State championship game. Laurel lost to Picayune in 2013, defeated Wayne County in 2014 and lost to the War Eagles in 2015.
Picayune is in the South State title game for the third time since 2011, and owns Class 5A state championships from 2011 and 2013.
"I think probably the experience of the coaching staffs have a lot to do with it," Picayune coach Dodd Lee. "We've been playing against these guys forever, it seems like.
"This is my 36th year, and I've known them for what (seems like forever). I went to college with some of them."
The familiarity has bred respect. Both teams are well aware what each wants to do and what it will take to contain the other.
For years, Picayune has owned one of the most potent ground games in the state, and this season has been no different.
The Maroon Tide has run for 402.2 yards a game, passed for only 54.9 yards per game.
Josh Littles leads the assault, averaging 189.3 yards rushing a game, with 2,271 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games. He's also run in a 2-point conversion caught a touchdown pass.
Shaun Anderson has run for 1,098 yards and eight touchdowns on just 93 carries, averaging 11.6 yards a touch. David Baker has 537 yards and 11 touchdowns on 81 carries, while Blake Merrifield has run for 648 yards and nine touchdowns on 93 carries.
Even quarterback Skylar Bowman has rushed for nearly as many touchdowns (three) as he's thrown (four).
"Blocking has had a little bit to do with it," Lee said.
Laurel does its best work through the air, though Terrell has rushed for 788 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Ulmer has proved to be a double threat, leading the Tornadoes with 870 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Ulmer's been even more potent passing, completing 65.9 percent of throws for 2,925 yards and 37 touchdowns with eight interceptions.
Donatrio Drummond has been Ulmer's favorite target, with 67 catches for 1,429 yards and 15 touchdowns. Drummond has accounted for 1,815 all-purpose yards, including a pair of touchdowns each on punt returns and kickoff returns.
Je'vah Jones ranks next with 841 yards and 13 touchdowns and 37 catches, and Anthony Jones rounds out the triple threat of receivers with 405 yards and five touchdowns on 33 catches.
"I think we're getting better, and we've got to continue to do that," Laurel coach Todd Breland said.
Come Friday night, it's likely going to take the best each team has to advance to Starkville.
"It feels awesome," said Terrell, who has rushed for nearly 260 yards and scored six times on the ground or through the air in his last two games.
"I'm just hoping we can take it all and bring it back."