Pine Belt teams seek State Championships

Pine Belt teams seek State Championships

HATTIESBURG, MS - Four Pine Belt area teams will compete in the MHSAA football championships from Mississippi State's Davis-Wade Stadium starting on Friday. Here's a look at those four 2016 South State Title teams.

The last time Bay Springs played in a state championship, many of the current Bulldogs weren't yet born. All week long, players from the 1989 and '99 South State title teams have been encouraging the 2016 Bulldogs to go win Bay Springs' first state championship.

"I've heard from a lot of the former players, just wishing us good luck," said third-year Bay Springs head coach Dan Brady. "Just telling us to keep doing what we're doing and working hard. The community support is always great but there's people I haven't heard from in years that are coming to talk to us about it. These kids want to be the ones that leave that legacy to finally get over the hump and win a state championship."

Bay Springs fell 28-14 to Calhoun City in the 1989 State Title before losing 17-12 to Booneville in the 1999 championship game. Coach Brady and company hoping the third time is the charm as they face Calhoun City on Friday.

Meanwhile, class 1A South State champion Lumberton looks for its fifth state championship when they go up against Simmons. The Panthers previously won state titles in 1983, 2004, 2005 and 2010.

2005 ring-bearer and current assistant coach Anthony Harry constantly preaches to the 2016 Panthers what it takes to win a state championship.

"Give everything you got," Harry said. "Come together, but at the end of the day its teamwork. There were so many athletes on that [2005] team but we all came together and knew that every day it wasn't going to be your time to shine. We just came together as a family. We came to work every day as a family, family, family."

Lumberton High School not the only program looking to add another state title to its name. When the Laurel Golden Tornadoes line up against West Point, they'll hope to replicate their 5A State Championship from 2014.

"Every year is special," said fifth-year Laurel head coach Todd Breland. "I've been fortunate enough to win a state championship as an assistant coach a few times and as a head coach once. I remember walking into the stadium last time and I was in awe. It's a big moment under big lights. The fact that a lot of these kids have been there before is going to help them."

One school that's never been there is class 4A's Poplarville Hornets.

After winning its first ever South State Title on Friday, Poplarville hopes to put the finishing touches on an historical season when it faces Lafayette this weekend. Third-year Hornets head coach Jay Beech thinks his team will handle the bright lights of Davis-Wade Stadium just fine.

"Throughout the playoffs we've been in pressure situations," Beech said. "Intense situations, elimination games and every week our kids have just come out and performed. It just seems like I'm always more nervous than the kids are. They just come out and play. We've got a lot of faith in those guys and we're excited to see what they can do Saturday."

After a grueling, thrilling, history-making season, these four teams' opportunities to make their marks in the annals of Mississippi football comes down to one weekend in December.