PINE BELT (WDAM) - Lumberton High School will be one of the first to walk into Wade Davis Stadium in Starkville Friday morning in search of a Mississippi high school football championship.
The Panthers got a taste of that brave, new world Wednesday afternoon in Hattiesburg.
"We went to Southern Miss and practiced because I wanted them to kind of be inside that atmosphere," Lumberton coach Zach Jones said. "A stadium, it just looks different, and I was very pleased with how we handled it. We weren't in awe of it. We were very business-like, and hopefully, that carries over with us (Friday)."
The Panthers (12-2), who have won their last 11 games, will take on defending Class 1A state champion Hollandale Simmons High School at 11 a.m. Friday. The Blue Devils (12-0) have won 24 consecutive games.
"They're a very good football team," Jones said. "There's a reason they've won 24 straight. There's a reason they're here. We have much respect for them, but we're not just happy to be here. Our goal is to go finish this thing off and hope we make a good game of it."
The Lumberton-Simmons clash is one of three championship games set for Friday at Wade Davis Stadium.
Bay Springs High School (12-3) will meet Calhoun City High School (14-1) at 3 p.m. Friday for the Class 2A crown, with Pearl High School (11-3) taking on Clinton High School (13-1) at 7 p.m. in the Class 6A title game.
Three more championships will be up for grabs Saturday.
Kemper County High School (14-1) faces Charleston High School (13-2) in the Class 3A title game at 11 a.m., Poplarville High School (12-1) will take on Lafayette High School (12-2) for the Class 4A crown at 3 p.m. and Laurel High School (13-1) and West Point High School (13-1) meet in the Class 5A game at 7 p.m.
Both Lumberton and Simmons have ridden powerful running games to reach the state championship.
Dre Coleman (2,462 yards, 31 touchdowns), Rodriquis Coleman (829 yards, six touchdowns) and Davion Edwards (487 yards, four touchdowns) have fueled a Lumberton ground game that averages 310 yards a game.
Quarterback Jared Tribett has thrown for 1,613 yards and 23 touchdowns with four interceptions. He also has run for nine scores.
Donnell Buckner (37 catches, 846 yards, 16 touchdowns) and Erron Joseph (24 catches, 430 yards, three touchdowns) have been the Panthers' top receivers.
Simmons has relied on the production of Marquez Pam (1,875 yards, 27 touchdowns) and Demarius Turner (824 yards, nine touchdowns) to average 321.4 yards rushing per game.
Quarterback Chandler Robinson has thrown for 539 yards and six touchdowns with three interceptions. His top target has been Amos Robinson (13 catches, 212 yards, one touchdown).
"They can throw it when they need to, but their preference is to run the ball," said Jones, who is trying to Lumberton to its first title since 2010.
The same can be said of the Class 2A matchup, with both Bay Springs and Calhoun City relying on their running games and stout defenses to reach the title game.
Jaylin Jones (1,913 yards, 25 touchdowns) and Damerious Jones (1,103 yards, 14 touchdowns) have powered a Bay Springs' running game that averages 269.5 yards a game.
Quarterback Cadarius Lee has thrown for 1,473 yards and 23 touchdowns with nine interceptions and also run for five scores.
Jaylin Jones has caught six touchdowns, while Damerious Jones has 416 yards receiving and five touchdown catches and Daniel Davis has 349 yards receiving and six scores on a team-high 29 catches.
Calhoun City shares the ball on the ground between Jessie Nabors (1,253 yards, 24 touchdowns), Keshun Parker (993 yards, 18 touchdowns) and Treshone Cooper (439 yards, five touchdowns). The Wildcats average 295 yards rushing per game.
Quarterback JoJo Gray has thrown for 380 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions and run for nine scores. Tyrese Quinn is the leading receiver with 17 receptions for 433 yards and six touchdowns.
Bay Springs averages 35.7 points a game, while allowing 14.2 points a game.
Calhoun City has averaged 40.3 points a game and been downright stingy on defense, with opponents averaging just 9.2 points a game. The Wildcats have posted five shutouts and allowed less than 10 points in 11 games.
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