Poplarville football is no stranger to the big stage in recent years, having now gone to the 4A State Championship game in three out of the last four seasons.
Historically, it’s what happens next that the Hornets are trying to alter this time around as a program still in search of its first ever gold ball. From top dog to underdog, the time is now.
Running Back Zac Owen said, “Nah. I’ve been talking about it all week with my other players. We’re just like it doesn’t even seem real. This is a very unreal thing considering our start and how we’ve been through the season.”
Poplarville’s recent South State Championship track record speaks for itself, but in this case so did its rocky start to the 2019 season. Running Back/ Corner Back Caziah Daniels said, “People looking at us like we weren’t going to win because of the beginning of our season. We started out 1-4, and it was looking bad and people were doubting us.”
By the time October rolled around for the Hornets those four losses were already more than their three defeats from the previous two seasons combined. Down, but not out, it took a 38 point loss from another eventual South State champion to finally change the tide, literally. “Our lowest point of the season would probably be playing against Picayune. Fussing at each other because we were having a bad game and coming from there, learning from it.”
Head Coach Jay Beech said, “I knew we had potential to be a good team. After a 1-4 start, I was starting to maybe possibly doubt if we were ever going to reach our potential. But our kids have done a great job of just playing with a lot more determination, intensity. And we’ve had a bunch of kids playing hurt. A bunch of kids stepping in, doing things that they didn’t do in the beginning of the year, changing positions. So super proud of these guys, and where we’re at to this point.”
Poplarville’s only other loss came at the hands of region 7 class 4A champion Greene County after which the Hornets started handing the ball off to senior captain Zac Owen for the first time all season. Five hundred plus yards, 11 touchdowns, and five wins later, 4A South still runs through the Hornet’s Nest. “We were definitely thankful for the opportunity to go back to South State. There were a lot of people that counted us out from the beginning of the season, and we knew we wanted to get back there and right our wrongs and get on that revenge tour to get the ring back.”
Sitting at 9-5 overall, Poplarville is one of just two teams out of the 12 in state with single digit wins up to this point.
The Hornets now draw a 13 win Corinth squad fresh off back to back wins over previously undefeated opponents. Which is why it is all about the size of the sting in the bee. “Our heart is unbelievable. We’ve got a team full of people with big hearts and we go out there and lay it on the line every snap, and that’s what it takes to get the job done.”
“Those teams that get to a state championship with a 9-5 record, you can respect the team and their grit and their determination, even more sometimes as you can a team that’s 13-1.”
The average win total of the entire State Championship field is more than 12. The Hornets and Warriors will kick things off at 11 a.m. Saturday from USM’s MM Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.