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Poplarville hosts East Central for South State Championship

Poplarville's Jay Beech

Poplarville and East Central are playing for the Class 4A South State Championship on Friday in Poplarville. Surprised? If you are, then where have you been the past few months while these two Hornet teams, Poplarville (13-0) and East Central (12-0), have dominated football in south Mississippi. This matchup has been talked about even before the start of the season.

Poplarville is in this game for the second straight season, while East Central is in uncharted ground for their program. There are many story lines, many angles, lots of special relationships, and most of all, two solid football teams with coaching staffs that are as good as any at any level of football.

No need to go into all the points scored / given up; yards rushing/passing, numbers, numbers, and more numbers. They don't matter because they were against different teams and different personnel. This game, dubbed the Hornet Bowl by many, will be won by the team that executes their scheme the best.

Both Jay Beech and Seth Smith have built teams that run first offensively and play sound, swarming defense. They had that philosophy instilled in them as high school teammates at Pearl River Central by a guy they both loved dearly, Curtis Thaxton. Coach Thaxton passed away this past summer, but his memory has been mentioned by both Beech and Smith this week during their many interviews for newspapers, televisions, and WRJW as well.

I think this game will be decided by the kicking game because I'll be surprised if either team can move the ball freely against the other. Field position, field goals, and extra points (or two point conversations) will decide this game unless either team does something they rarely do...have turnovers.

Tony Brown and Austin Bolton are special players, Brad Cumbest and D.J. Travis play the game at their positions exceptionally well. Avery White, Ross Barnett, and Peytan Graham and others. And so on.

It will be an electric atmosphere with somewhere around 8,000 plus packed into Poplarville's Hornet Nest. There will be more people standing around the field and on the hills than in the actual stands.

Our WRJW coverage starts at 6:30pm with the Paw Paw's Campers & Cars Pregame show. Clay Sweet (play by play), Jeff Lossett (color analyst/stats), and Jason Baker (sideline reporter) will be on the call of the game on WRJW 1320 AM,, and the WRJW smart phone app.

Winner of the game? Please understand, I love both of these head coaches. I've watched them both grow up in Pearl River County, called many games when they played at PRC, and I know their families quite well. My heart is torn because of the respect I have for each as a person and a coach. I rarely make predictions in writing, but I've had so many people ask my thoughts on this one.

Just a hunch that's based on intangibles, I think it's Hornets 24-23. Home team.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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