STARKVILLE, MS (WDAM) - Calhoun City High School's smothering defense does not give the opposition many opportunities.
And in Friday evening's Class 2A Mississippi state championship football game, Bay Springs High School could not take advantage of the few chances it did get.
Rallying around the memory of a former teammate who died from injuries sustained in a 2015 car accident, Calhoun City spotted Bay Springs an 8-0 lead before roaring away to a 22-8 victory at Davis Wade Stadium.
It marked the 10th time in 16 games that the Bulldogs have held an opponent to less than 10 points this season as Calhoun City (15-1) won its second state crown in 11 trips to the championship game and its first in 27 years.
"It feels amazing," said running back/defensive back Jessie Nabors, who rushed for a game-high 105 yards and came up with two of the Wildcats' five takeaways on defense. "We haven't done this since 1989."
Nabors and his teammates have carried the No. 68 jersey of Thomas "Tripp" Macon to the sideline, remembering his words prior to succumbing to his injuries that one day soon, Calhoun City would win state.
The Wildcats keep his number stenciled on their helmets. They keep his memory in their hearts.
Friday evening, they won one for the "Tripper."
"Going into halftime, it was 8-8," Nabors said. "And I told my teammates, before we came back out, that we were going to have to pick it up a notch. This is for Tripp. So, we executed well."
And essentially strangled the life of any hopes the Bulldogs (12-4) had of capping an improbable season with an incredible finale.
"It's been great," Bay Springs coach Dan Brady said. "Nobody expected us to be here. I'm proud of my kids and very thankful for the opportunities I've had. But congratulations to Coach (Perry) Liles. He deserved it. His team deserved it. They outplayed us (Friday)."
Calhoun City quarterback Jojo Gray threw for one touchdown and ran for another as the Wildcats stuck to their ground game much as they had all season. Calhoun City came in averaging 295 yards rushing; it netted 237 yards Friday.
Jaylin Jones scored the Bulldogs lone touchdown on a 5-yard run in the first quarter before the Wildcats clamped down over the final three quarters.
Jones, who ran for more than 1,900 yards coming into Friday, netted just 34 yards.
But that was just part and parcel of what Calhoun City did across the boards. Bay Springs managed just 176 total yards offense, about half of what the Bulldogs averaged during the season.
Cornerback Tyrese Quinn forced a fumble and had two interceptions, the first setting up the Wildcats' initial score in the second quarter, the second all but icing the game late in the fourth quarter.
Calhoun tied the game in the second quarter on Jadarius Parker's 4-yard touchdown run and 2-point conversion run that left the teams even at the break.
Gray, who completed both of the passes he attempted, found A Tarius Moore with a 9-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, and when Nabors banged in the 2-point conversion, the Wildcats had doubled up on the Bulldogs, 16-8.
Gray capped the scoring with a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter, and a little more than six minutes later, the Wildcats were no longer the long-time bridesmaid.
"We don't look at it that way, but it's going to be fun to put on our wall (Saturday), 'State champion,'" Liles said. "It's the second time, and we're dang proud of it."
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