• John Macon Gillespie

Coverage Breakdown: 4A Championship

When: Saturday, 3:00pm

Lafayette Commodores(12-2)

The Commodores are back in the state championship game for the first time in three years. They will look to erase the memory of losing to Carter Hankins and the Forrest County AHS Aggies 21-6 in the title game in 2013. The Commodores are also hot coming into this game, also the winners of 12 in a row, Lafayette started 0-2 against two 6A opponents and then came roaring on as they made their way to this moment. In his first season at the helm, Michael Fair has done a tremendous job of bringing the swagger that Lafayette owned in 2009-11 with Jeremy Liggins, Demarkus Dennis and company. Like Poplarville, they too run the ball at will against opponents with Jamarcus Quarrels running the rock. And again like Poplarville, they have a defense that can shut down any given opponent.

The Commodores have a tremendous athlete in Mississippi State commit Tyler Williams who has 718 yards receiving, 34 tackles and two picks. Williams will look to stand out in a stadium he will be calling home for the next four years. Jamarcus Quarles is the next edition of dominant running back to come out of Lafayette. Quarles has carried the ball 294 times for 2,062 yards and scored 18 TDs. Quarterback Will Ard has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,811 yards and threw 18 TD tosses, only throwing three interceptions, not too shabby for a quarterback in this run offense. Sophomore receiver standout Brandon Turnage is a good target at receiver with 318 yards and three TDs. On defense, Brandon Curry has been a tackling machine getting 146 tackles. Corey Williams has 10 sacks to lead the team. Amani Johnson has been straight MONEY and Xavier Martin has six picks.

Poplarville Hornets(12-1)

The Hornets have never been on this stage, the state championship. This season, the Hornets fielded without question their best team in school history thanks to a punishing running attack coming out of the Wing T formation and a defense with a tenacious pass rush. After losing to 6A foe St. Martin, the Hornets rattled off 12 in a row. They are hoping to get win number 13 and hoist a gold ball at Davis Wade Stadium.

Noticed that the run game is mentioned first when talking about Poplarville’s offense. Rightfully so, the Hornets feature two backs that have both rushed for over 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns. Running back Austin Bolton has carried the ball 171 times for 1,701 yards and 21 TDs while fullback Jesse Pernell has carried the ball 189 times for 1,614 yards and 26 TDs. So yeah, they are a well-oiled running machine.

On defense, linebacker Ross Barnett has racked up 81 tackles. Poplarville has some athletes that can get into the other team’s backfield in a hurry. Jemerrick Walker has 6.5 sacks on the year and Brandon Bullock has 5.5 sacks. The Hornets have a ballhawk in Ariteaus Johnson who has nine picks, that is tied for third in the state.

How The Game Will Be Won

This matchup has everything needed to potentially be a old school, traditional, classic, smash mouth football. The game also has the chance to possibly be the shortest game of six state championship game being played in Starkville this weekend. Both teams have a good bit of similarities. For both teams, they need to be successful on 3rd down and keep the other team off the field as much as they possibly can. Time of possession will be huge.

For Lafayette, they need to play good “responsibility” defense. If you face a Wing-T offense and face a team that executes it as well as Poplarville does, you better have your responsibility taken care of, or else it will be a long night chasing around a talented group of runners that Polarville has. Next, Lafayette needs to continue to be effective in the passing game if Quarles gets shut down. Last Week, Quarles had a rough time early breaking loose against a talented Pontotoc defense. And was able to get key third down conversions using the pass and that kept Lafayette in the game and ahead the majority of the night. The Hornets have a pretty good secondary, Ard will have to make good decisions and take care of the football in this game.

For Poplarville, they need to be confident and cool on a big stage that they are fixing to get on. As mentioned before, Poplarville has never even traveled to a state championship game, if your new to the spotlight, there tends to be a little extra nerves, anxiety, and too much emotions in your mind. Poplarville needs to get over that quick and treat this game with priority, but like any other game with laser focus if they want to compete with the 4A powerhouse that is Lafayette. Also, the Hornets need to play clean offensively. This is an offense that is pretty much used to moving forwards, getting a handful of yards every play. If things go bad with holding, personal foul penalties, and the Hornets getting whacked with 3rd and 15, 20 plus, the Hornets will have to rely on a passing game that is a rare commodity on this Poplarville squad and throw the ball into a quick, athletic Commodore defense. Poplarville needs to go nowhere but on the gas and moving forward if they want to defeat Lafayette and win a first state title.

SES Picks:

Webb Lewis-----Poplarville

John Luke McCord-----Lafayette

John Macon Gillespie-----Lafayette

Jared Redding-----Lafayette

Tucker Italiano-----Lafayette

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