PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - Six teams from our viewing area took to football fields around the Pine Belt Friday and not only won South State championship crowns, but earned the right to play for state titles in their respective classifications.
All have been here before, though for one, it’s been a 20-year absence.
One will be seeking a third title in four years.
Two are making a third consecutive appearance, with one of those appearing for the fourth time in five years.
One is back for a second consecutive season and third time in five years, while one returns for the second time in three years.
Here’s how each took the final step Friday night to play this weekend at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Oak Grove 43, Northwest Rankin 24
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Junior quarterback Kabe Barnett threw for three touchdowns and ran for fourth as the Warriors won their third consecutive South State title.
Oak Grove came up with five turnovers, turning four into touchdowns. Sophomore cornerback Jaylen Aborom came up with three takeaways, including two, fourth-quarter interceptions that the Warriors converted into 14 points to put the game away.
Barnett completed 14-of-23 passes for 148 yards, He also rushed for 34 yards and a touchdown on five carries against the Cougars (9-4).
Senior running back Courtland Harries ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns and caught a 15-yard scoring pass. Senior running back Eugene Newell Jr. Had 85 yards rushing n 17 carries.
Senior receiver Raheem Fairley caught three passes for 59 yards, including two touchdown catches. Junior receiver Tyrell Pollard had six catches for 60 yards.
Senior safety Keon Preyor and junior defensive end Jamal Lee each recovered a fumble, while sophomore Dazerick Patton caused two fumbles.
The Warriors (12-0) will face defending state champion Oxford High School (12-0) at 7 p.m. Friday. The game is a rematch from 2019, with the Chargers rallying for a 31-21 victory in 2019.
West Jones 18, Pascagoula 16
PASCAGOULA, Miss, (WDAM) - The Mustangs turned back the clock Friday night, getting past the Panthers in a manner more familiar four or five years ago, when safeties and field goals seemingly would outnumber touchdowns in a given game.
But while Friday’s victory may have been a throwback, relying on big-time special teams’ play and a sturdy defense, the Mustangs are not about to throw it back.
West Jones scored 18 points in the second quarter and made them stand up to earn their second trip to the state championship game in the past three years.
The Mustangs (12-2) will meet four-time defending state titlist West Point High School at 7 p.m. Friday in a rematch of the 2018 championship game. West Jones dropped a 27-12 decision in its first and only title game appearance.
Friday night, West Jones trailed 3-0 after one quarter after sophomore Caden Chisolm capped the Panthers’ opening possession with a 21-yard field goal.
The second quarter belonged to the Mustangs.
Sophomore receiver Matthew Nixon returned a punt to the Pascagoula 28-yard line. Senior running back Kentrel Pruitt finished off the short drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to put West Jones ahead for good, 6-3.
The lead went to 8-3 when Pascagoula sophomore quarterback Keilon Parnell was sacked by junior defensive back Jarvis Keys for a safety.
Sophomore receiver Marlon Lindsey then returned the ensuing free kick to the Panthers’ 20-yard line, setting up a 33-yard field goal by freshman place-kicker Joseph Hernandez for an 11-3 lead.
A blocked punt set up another short field, this time at the Pascagoula 2-yard line. Pruitt popped in from there and Hernandez knocked through the extra point to give West Jones an 18-3 halftime lead.
But the Mustangs, who managed 77 yards and two touchdowns rushing, struggled offensively, netting just 91 yards offense.
Pascagoula (7-5) recovered a pooch kickoff in the third quarter, setting up a 2-yard scoring run by freshman Cameron DeFlanders to get the Panthers within 18-9.
A bad snap on a West Jones punt set up Pascagoula’s final score in the fourth quarter, a 1-yard run by junior Terrence Godwin.
Pascagoula managed just 206 yards total offense, as the teams combined for less than 300 yards total offense.
Poplarville 35, Mendenhall 6
POPLARVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - The Hornets cranked up its Wing-T offense, rushing for 352 yards as Poplarville won South State honors for a third consecutive season.
Senior Gregory Swann rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on four carries, junior D.J. Richardbey ran for 109 yards and a score on 18 carries and junior Tyron Holston added 81 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Sophomore Avan Jarvis ran six times for 17 yards and a touchdown, while he and Richardbey each ran for a 2-point conversion.
Poplarville (10-3), the Region 7-4A champion, won its 10th consecutive game to reach the state title game for the fourth time in five years.
The Hornets will take on Louisville High School (13-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday in a rematch of the 2018 Class 4A championship game. The Wildcats claimed a 25-20 victory over Poplarville two years ago.
The Tigers finished their season 6-4.
Magee 14, Columbia 6
MAGEE, Miss. (WDAM) _ Senior quarterback Chandler Pittman was not a one-man show Friday night in the South State title game.
Statistically, it just seemed that way.
The Trojans ran 56 plays on offense, and Pittman was in the middle of 46 of them, rushing or passing. Magee’s offense netted 317 yards. Pittman accounted for 277 yards.
He completed 12-of-24 passes for 132 yards and rushed for 138 yards on 22 carries.
The only other Trojan with yards from scrimmage outside of the passing game was junior running back Jawon Shaw, who netted 40 yards on 10 carries.
Pittman threw for both Magee touchdowns, with senior Xavier Franks hauling in both. Franks finished with five catches for 61 yards.
Senior Cayden Bridges caught four passes for 35 yards.
The victory over Region 8-3A foe Columbia High School (10-3) not only kept the Trojans (11-0) unbeaten, but sent them into the state title game for the first time since 2000.
Magee won its fourth state championship two decades ago with a 42-14 victory over Ripley High School.
The Trojans will face Noxubee County High School (9-1) at 11 a.m. Friday.
Taylorsville 40, Enterprise-Clarke 13
TAYLORSVILLE, Miss. (WDAM) - Back in the 1990s, Taylorsville High School football coach Mitch Evans helped guide the Tartars to consecutive football championships.
Saturday afternoon in Jackson, Evans will have the opportunity to see whether his standout quarterback and the Tartars can accomplish the same.
For a second consecutive week, Taylorsville leaned on its running game and downed Enterprise-Clarke High School 40-13 Friday in the Class 2A South State title game.
Led by senior running back Jeffrey Pittman’s 205 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, the Tartars (11-1) rolled up 414 yards rushing against the Bulldogs.
Enterprise-Clarke (9-2), which was part of Region 5-2A with Taylorsville, lost just two games all season. Both losses came against to the Tartars.
Taylorsville senior quarterback Ty Keyes, a three-time honoree as Class 2A’s “Mr. Football,” attempted just 10 passes against the Bulldogs, completing seven for 100 yards and a touchdown. Keyes also rushed for 104 yards and a score on 11 carries.
Senior Travis Keyes added 76 yards rushing and a touchdown on just four carries.
Senior Tyrese Keyes caught five passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
For Ty Keyes and his fellow seniors, the trip to Jackson will mark the fourth consecutive season the Tartars have played for a Class 2A championship.
Taylorsville won state titles in 2017 and 2019. The Tartars lost in 2018 without Ty Keyes, who was injured in the South State title game.
The Tartars will defend their 2019 crown against Calhoun City High School (10-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Lumberton 30, Simmons 0
LUMBERTON, Miss. (WDAM) - Senior Robert Henry turned in another Robert Henry-like performance as the Panthers reached the Class 1A championship for a second consecutive season and third time in five years.
Henry ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries as Lumberton rushed for 339 yards.
Trevon Jessie rushed for 90 yards on 14 carries, Shavante Toney had 50 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Jessie also returned a shanked punt 25 yards for a touchdown.
Lumberton (11-1), which has not lost since its season-opening game, allowed just 53 points over the next 10 games its played, including five shutouts. Lumberton has allowed just six points in the playoffs.
The Panthers will take on Biggersville High School (11-0) at 3 p.m. Friday.