HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - One play, all year long, somehow, some way, Seminary High School had found a way to win football games.
Friday afternoon, the Bulldogs came up a play _ or two _ short in a 34-28 loss to Water Valley High School in the Class 3A state championship football game at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the University of Southern Mississippi campus.
“Most of our games this years, we’ve had to come from behind, and I thought maybe we could do it one more time,” Seminary coach Brian Rials said. “We got down a couple scores, but these guys, they just keep on fighting.
“We came up just a little bit short.”
The Bulldogs (12-4), who had won 11 consecutive games on their way to a Region 8-3A title and South State championship, fell short in their quest for a second state championship to go with the one secured in 2003.
Water Valley (14-2), which won the North State championship, jumped on Seminary early and then held on for the second state football championship in school history and first in 28 years (1990).
“It feels good, man, a great relief,” said Water Valley senior receiver Bud Tolbert, who was named Most Valuable Player after catching a career-high four touchdown passes.. “I love these players, team, coaches, family, community, everybody. It’s great.”
The Blue Devils, who had thrown just 19 touchdown passes coming into the game, scored five times through the air Friday.
Tolbert hauled in four passes for 100 yards, all for touchdowns, from junior quarterback Jacob Truss.
“That’s their main receiver, so we knew,” Rials said. “We tried to get some help on him sometimes, and even when we had two back there, we still couldn’t make the play.
“But he’s good, and they did a good job exploiting it.”
Seminary fell behind 7-0 after one quarter after Truss found Tolbert behind the defense for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
The lead grew to 14-0 early in the second period on the Rockett-to-Truss connection before Seminary responded with a seven-play, 66-yard scoring drive to cut its deficit to 14-6. Junior running back Barrett Jordan scored on a 3-yard run to get the Bulldogs on the board.
But Truss ballooned an underthrown ball that Tolbert adjusted to, beating double coverage for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
The third quarter opened with another 35-yard TD pass from Truss to Tolbert, seemingly burying Seminary under a 28-6 deficit.
But the Bulldogs went up top as well, with senior quarterback Jeff Miller finding junior running back Poundarius Youngblood wide open for a 45-yard touchdown pass that pulled Seminary within 28-12 with just less than six minutes left in the third quarter.
But Water Valley, or more succinctly, Truss-to-Tolbert, struck again, this time for 5 yards away, as the Blue Devils had the Bulldogs behind a 34-12 eight-ball heading into the fourth quarter.
But suddenly, Seminary found its stride.
The Bulldogs drove inside the Water Valley 5, only to be stopped at the 1-yard line and turn the ball over on downs.
But Seminary caught Truss in the end zone on the next snap to pull within 34-14, and then turned the free kick into an 80-yard touchdown drive, with Youngblood scoring on an 11-yard run to close to 34-21.
“They made a really good, gola-line stand,” Rials said. “But the kids stepped up, and proud that they were able to keep on fighting the whole game.”
Seminary then cut the lead to 34-28 when sophomore Joseph Owens broke a 15-yard touchdown run around right end and the Bulldogs had the lead down to six points with 1:35 to play, with an on-side kick in the offing.
But one more play was not on the platter, and the Blue Devils ran out the clock.
“Right now, it don’t feel good, but we’re just proud for these guys and this community and, hopefully, we can come back next year,” Rials said.
Seminary sophomore running back Marquis Crosby ran for 169 yards on 19 carries, while Barrett added 45 yards on 18 carries.
Truss completed 8-of-10 passes for 139 yards and rushed for 60 yards on 17 carries. Senior running back Tay Rucker finished with a team-high 68 yards.
Here’s a look at the schedule for Friday and Saturday:
Friday, Nov. 30
· Class 3A: Water Valley 34, Seminary 28
· Class 1A: Nanih Waiya 21, Simmons 18
· 7:00 p.m. - Class 6A: Oak Grove vs. Horn Lake
Saturday, Dec. 1
· 11:00 a.m. - Class 4A: Poplarville vs. Louisville
· 3:00 p.m. - Class 2A: Taylorsville vs. Scott Central
· 7:00 p.m. - Class 5A: West Jones vs. West Point
All games will be aired on WDAM’s Bounce TV. The WDAM 7 Sports Team will also be on campus both days to provide in depth coverage of the championship games. Follow Taylor Curet, Lexi Hughes and Tim Doherty on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.