The Class 6A South State title game is a rematch of two teams who met in the 5A playoffs a year ago.
Picayune (10-2), seeking a third straight state championship, will have to get through a West Jones team that hasn’t lost a game since suffering a 28-17 loss to the Maroon Tide in the second round of the 5A playoffs last year.
Since then, the Mustangs (12-0) have posted six shutouts this season and are coming off a 21-7 win over Terry to reach their first South State title game since 2020 – the same year they won it all.
Picayune expects West Jones to be looking for revenge and knows it will be a tough battle in their quest for a three-peat.
“They are a very good, well-coached football team,” said Picayune head coach Cody Stogner. “Big, fast, and physical.”
The Mustangs have rolled up 407 points this season, while allowing just 56 to their opponents.
West Jones rolled up 267 rushing yards against Terry with freshman quarterback Tootie Lindsey, running backs Elijah Jones and Caleb Holmes, who had a pair of TD runs last week, leading the attack.
Defensively, the Mustangs are led by their D-line with seniors Isaiah Lindsey, Amir Jones and Jonathan Keys leading the way. Seniors Rase Jones at linebacker and defensive back Jamarion Keyes are standouts on the back end. Against Terry, the West Jones unit allowed just 106 total yards – just 14 in the second half. Terry’s only score was a pick-six in the first quarter.
Picayune, meanwhile, has won 10 straight playoff games.
Stogner said his team will have to play their best game of the year.
“This isn’t just coach talk because it’s true,” Stogner said. “We have to stay a head of the chains and hold onto the football on offense. Do not allow the big plays on defense and win the kicking game.”
With a back-to-back championship resume, Picayune has the experience and know-how of preparing during Thanksgiving Week. Stogner said his team has talked all year about getting to this week because they know if they are practicing this week, they have a chance to play for it all.
“Our seniors have practiced during Turkey Week twice before so they know what’s expected and I know they will have the younger guys ready to get to work,” said Stogner.
Stogner said his team is healthy for the game.
“We have some aches and pains and that’s expected after playing 12 games, but our kids are tough,” said Stogner
One key player, however, might not be in the lineup for Picayune.
Maroon Tide running back Chris Davis was ejected in the second quarter of last week’s win over Pascagoula. Whether or not he plays this week was up in the air as Picayune appealed the one-game suspension. But Picayune has been in this situation for a good portion of the season when Davis missed a bulk of time due to injury, which allowed Darrell Smith, Niquis Ratcliffe, and Jeremiah Contee to carry the load in the backfield.
Ratcliff, in fact, the third-string tailback and a starting cornerback, rushed for over 300 yards and scored three touchdowns in a key Region 4-6A win over George County in during Davis’ absence seven weeks ago.
Stogner, who is 47-6 since taking over the helm of his alma mater in 2020, said he believes the team who makes the least number of mistakes will win.
This marks the fifth time in the past six seasons that these teams have met in the state playoffs, and the series is 2-2 over that span.
“This game is about as good as it gets with two good teams,” said Stogner.
Friday’s winner will face the North champion between South Panola and Grenada for the state title.