STARKVILLE, MS (WDAM) - Three turned out to be Lafayette High School's favorite number Saturday evening.
Three Poplarville High School turnovers led to three Commodore touchdowns, as Lafayette claimed its third state football championship with a 27-12 victory in the Class 4A Mississippi high school title game.
"We've got players who play hard, and we've got a lot of good players, so that helps," said first-year Lafayette coach Michael Fair. "The turnovers were huge."
- Brandon Turnage stepped in front of a lateral on an attempted “hook-and-ladder” play by Poplarville with 30 seconds left in the first half and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown
- Jamarcus Quarles capped a 30-yard drive set up by an interception by Tay Tay Owens in the second quarter with a 20-yard scoring run
- Jamie Shaw went 24 yards for a touchdown to end a 48-yard drive that was set up by a fumble recovery by Turnage in the third quarter
"The turnovers killed us," said Poplarville coach Jay Beech, who took the Hornets to their first state championship in his third year at the helm. "
"The hook-and-ladder, we thought we had it set up pretty good, but it just didn't work out. It was just one of those things, high-risk, high-reward."
Lafayette (13-2) which tore off 13 consecutive wins after dropping its first two games, jumped out to a 7-0 lead when quarterback Will Ard connected with Mississippi State signee Tyler Carmichael-Williams for a 77-yard touchdown pass on the Commodores' second offensive play of the game.
Lafayette won its first state title since back-to-back championships in 2010-11.
"It feels amazing," Carmichael-Williams said. "There's nothing like making plays in my future home. I just feel so grateful and blessed.
"I'm so proud of all the guys. We had some young guys step up and make plays."
Ard was named Most Valuable Player after completing 6 of 7 passes for 104 yards.
Despite a 20-0 halftime deficit that grew to 27-0 on Shaw's run with 5:06 to play in the third quarter, the Hornets (12-2) hung tough, scoring twice in the game's final 13 ½ minutes.
In his final high school game, Jesse Pernell ran for a game-high 213 yards on 25 carries, including a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:04 left in the third quarter.
"Pernell's very good, a lot of heart, will and determination and we're very proud of him," Beech said.
Peytan Graham ran 11 yards for a Poplarville touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Poplarville rushed for 322 yards against the Commodores, outgaining Lafayette 343 total yards to 204 total yards.
Beech, who saw his Hornets lose for the first time in 13 games, said he was proud of how his team played after the break.
"I was glad we were able to show ourselves and show our fans what we were made of in the second half," Beech said. "We got down a little bit too much in that first half, but really proud of our kids there in the second half."