SOSO – West Jones is heading back to the state championship game after thumping Picayune 42-13 in the Class 6A South State championship game Friday night at Mustang Field.
The unbeaten Mustangs (13-0), who won a state title in 2020, will face the winner of South Panola and Grenada at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.
Picayune (10-3) was playing in their third consecutive South State title game and were seeking their third straight state championship.
The Maroon Tide were without the services of running backs Chris Davis, who was ejected from last week’s playoff game, and Darrell Smith, who was injured early in the first quarter and did not return to the game.
The playoff loss was the first for the Maroon Tide in their last 11 post-season games.
West Jones, who has not suffered a loss since a 28-17 setback to Picayune in the second round of the playoffs last year, struck quickly in the opening quarter, building a 21-0 lead on two explosive plays and a fumble return for a TD that set the tone for the game.
On their second possession, West Jones freshman quarterback Tootie Lindsey hit LaDamian Keyes on a quick slant over the middle and the wide out raced untouched 65 yards for the touchdown. Joseph Hernandez added the extra point to make it 7-0.
On their next possession, sophomore running back Caleb Holmes busted loose on a 69-yard run up the middle that set up a 5-yard TD run by Rase Jones around left end to put West Jones up 14-0.
The West Jones defense stymied the Picayune offense early and often in the first half, forcing Picayune to punt on three of their five possessions.
On the final play of the opening quarter, Picayune’s Niquis Ratcliffe was fighting for yardage on fourth down and coughed the ball up. Rase Jones returned the ball 38 yards for the scoop and score and Picayune now found themselves down 21-0 to start the second quarter.
West Jones added to their lead when Lindsey hit a streaking Jamarion Keyes down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown. The key play was an opportune deflected pass that Elijah Jones caught for a 10-yard gain on third down.
Picayune finally got on the board with 3:11 to play in the first half when quarterback Brady Robertson found Christian James for a 23-yard scoring strike on fourth-and-10 to cap a 64-yard drive and make it 28-7.But the Mustangs put the game way in the second half.
West Jones went 80 yards in just five plays, highlighted by another Holmes long run of 74 yards, to take a 35-7 lead in the third quarter. Rase Jones scored his third TD of the night on a 9-yard run. Holmes finished the night with nine carries for 208 yards.
The Mustangs then turned to their other big junior running back in Elijah Jones, who carried the ball 8 times on a 65-yard drive to score from 23 yards out with 1:42 to play in the third quarter. The sixth extra point from Hernandez made it 42-7.
Picayune’s Jeremiah Contee busted off a nice 44-yard run to the Mustangs one yard line with the hot clock rolling. Ratcliffe then scored his 18th TD of the season with 2:18 to play. The extra point was blocked.
The Maroon Tide’s last playoff loss came against the Mustangs in 2020.