STARKVILLE, MS (WDAM) - For six teams this weekend in Starkville, it was a dream finish. But for the other six: heartbreak.
"The hard part is, we always talk about the next game," said Lumberton head coach Zach Jones. "And that group of seniors we just talked to, they don't get to go out Monday and fix it. And that's sad. It's tough and hard to deal with, to look them in the eyes in there. We learned a hard one tonight. But there will be better days ahead for the Panthers."
Lumberton the first of the four Pine Belt area schools to lose over the weekend. The Panthers were previously 4-0 in state championship games.
Meanwhile, Bay Springs stormed out to an early 8-0 lead before Calhoun City scored 22 unanswered, hampering the Bulldogs' hopes of winning their first-ever state title.
"I'm very proud that we got the opportunity to play in the state championship," said Bay Springs head coach Dan Brady. "I'm so proud of my kids. It didn't end the way we wanted it to but you're going to have adversity sometimes in life. You have to overcome it and we're going to be better for it."
24 hours and several raindrops later, Poplarville strapped on its helmets for their first state championship appearance in school history.
It would be a rude welcoming for the Hornets as Lafayette jumped out to a 27-0 lead. Poplarville head coach Jay Beech's squad eventually settled in in the second half but would eventually fall 27-12.
"I was glad we were able to show ourselves and show our fans and everybody what we were made of in the second half," Beech said. "We got down too much in that first half. It's definitely a stepping stone for us, getting here. We hope to get back and win it."
If there were one school that was best accustomed to the big stage, it would be Laurel.
The Golden Tornadoes expected a battle with West Point, but they didn't expect to be completely stifled offensively by the Green Wave.
Laurel limited to just 98 yards of total offense and eight points, well below its 40-point average.
For a team that entered 2016 with one goal in mind, it was a sobering way for the season to come to an end especially for the seniors, who sought their second state title in three years.
"They're more special to me as young men than they are football players," said Laurel head coach Todd Breland. "I don't want to see [the seniors] go but I know you have to turn loose of them. Hopefully they'll stay around a little bit and aggravate us some more. They're special kids and we love 'em."
Four Pine Belt schools traveled to Starkville with great confidence and great expectations. Even though they came up short, it doesn't diminish their four great seasons.