POPLARVILLE – Poplarville may be in the process of reloading, with a relatively inexperienced team, but it was still vintage Hornets in their Region 8-4A opener.
Poplarville ground out 402 yards on the ground, and scored early and often to dominate Moss Point 54-12 Friday night at the Hornet’s Nest. The Hornets shrugged off last week’s 42-0 loss to West Jones in improving to 4-2 overall, 1-0 in region. Moss Point dropped to 1-5 and 0-1.
“These kids are tough and resilient, and we have confidence in ourselves,” said Hornet coach Jay Beech.
“Every now and then, you get your butt whipped. We’ve been on the winning end of that, and we’ve been on the losing side of it. We just put it past us and got ready for this week.”
It was win No. 100 in less than 10 seasons for Beech as head coach at Poplarville.
“I’m very proud of that,” said Beech. “I’m proud of all the kids I’ve gotten to coach here. It’s not me getting 100 wins, It’s the program that’s got 100 wins and we’ve had a lot of good kids who have gotten us there.”
Early on, it was the Tigers who had the upper hand, as they took the opening kickoff of the game on an 11-play, 73-yard scoring drive.
Senior Taboris Charles had a 32-yard run on fourth down to get Moss Point into Hornet territory, and the Tigers converted another fourth down for the score on an 18-yard pass from junior quarterback KeVon Ford to junior Condarius McCorvey.
The conversion failed, however, leaving the score 6-0.
“We’ve got to learn to play four quarters,” said Moss Point coach John Feaster. “We’ve got to learn to fight to the finish, and understand that each and every play is important”
The Tigers were able to move the ball at times, amassing 310 yards of offense, but an interception in the red zone stopped one drive, and they were stopped three times on subsequent fourth-down plays.
“They blocked us pretty good on that first drive,” said senior nose tackle Mason Cuevas. “We were trying to watch what they were doing, and we weren’t getting penetration. Once we started getting penetration up front, there wasn’t much they could do.
“We came to the sidelines, talked with the coaches about what we were messing up on and got it corrected.”
It took Poplarville less than a minute to answer and take the lead for good. On the second play after the kickoff, Hornet freshman Ty Keys burst around right end and raced past the pursuit for a 69-yard touchdown. Sophomore Kyler Booth’s PAT kick gave the Hornets a 7-6 lead.
“He’s a freshman, and we were kind of holding off throwing him to the wolves,” said Beech. “But we figured he’s got the body for it (6-foot-2, 170 pounds), a little bigger than your average freshman, so we decided to try him out.”
It was an auspicious debut for Keys as a starter, as he ran eight times for 168 yards and four touchdowns.
“I was real confident in my o-line,” said Keys. “They blocked hard for me. I got to the sideline and it was off to the races. Let’s go, baby.
“I wasn’t really nervous coming into the game. I’m ready for anything, honestly. I knew these guys would have my back, and we just played hard all game.”
Keys was ably complemented by senior Lane Amacker, who carried 10 times for 116 yards and three scores.
“It was the key to the offense getting Ty back there,” said Amacker. “It’s a very effective offense. We switched some things up this week, put in a few new wrinkles, moved some people around, and it really came together tonight.”
After a three-and-out, Poplarville got the ball back at the Moss Point 49-yard-line, and again needed less than a minute to score, Amacker getting the touchdown on a 44-yard run up the middle.
Here’s how dominant Poplarville was on offense. The Hornets did not have a single negative yardage play and they only faced third down twice – converting both times.
On Moss Point’s ensuing possession, the Hornets forced the punter to run on fourth down, resulting in possession at the Tiger 16, and Keys made short work of that yardage on runs of 5 and 11 yards and a 20-6 lead.
Another three-and-out and another short punt gave Poplarville the ball at the Moss Point 35, and the Hornets needed just five plays to dent the end zone again, on a 3-yard run by Keys.
Poplarville’s only mistake of the night, an interception by Tiger sophomore Terrance Jones at the Hornet 40, set up Moss Point’s second score on a 27-yard pass from Ford to sophomore J.B. Brown.
“We’ve just got to learn to fight,” said Feaster. “We’re rebuilding, and we’re going to keep fighting. I don’t know how to quit; I don’t know how to stop fighting. We’ll continue to work hard and get it turned around. I think we will. I believe in our kids and I believe in our staff.”
Poplarville made it 34-12 with another short quick drive on the opening possession of the second half.
Starting at their own 47-yard-line, Keys ran for 14 yards, Amacker ran for 12 and Keys got the touchdown on a 27-yard burst up the middle.
Keys’ last carry of the night, a 37-yard dash off left tackle set up another score after a fourth-down stop near midfield. Aacker covered the last 6 yards on the third play of the drive in yet another quick scoring drive.
Moss Point drove as far at the Poplarville 22, but on fourth down, Ford’s pass went awry and the Hornets put the running clock into effect with a five-play, 77-yard touchdown drive.
Amacker had a 15-yard scamper on the opening play of the drive, junior Nick Miller had runs of 17 and 9 yards, junior Sidney Blackmon had a 12-yard run on a quarterback keeper and Amacker got the score on a 12-yard run.
“We missed a few tackles on that first drive (by Moss Point) and they came out ready to play,” said Beech. “We knew they were going to make some plays, and we knew we were going to make some plays, and at the end of the day, we made more than they did.”
The Poplarville backups got in on the action with a six-play touchdown drive in the brief fourth quarter, with junior Thomas Lambert scoring on a 6-yard run.
The Hornets hit the road next week for a region contest at Pass Christian, while Moss Point returns home to face Bay High.
“It’s amazing to get that first (region) win,” said Cuevas. “Our goal is always to win a (region) championship and whoever’s in our way, we’re going to knock them down.”