The story always seems to write itself at stop number seven on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days where Picayune was just one state championship game victory away from sending former Head Coach Dodd Lee off into the sunset with his third gold ball.
Now ready to embark upon year one of the Cody Strogner era, class 5A south still runs through the home of the Maroon Tide until further notice.
Head Coach Cody Stogner said, “Nothing is broke, so we’re not going to fix anything. Learned a lot of things and we’re just going to carry over what’s been going on, what’s been working for so long. Like you said, big shoes to fill. It might be a new era, but we’re going with the same attitude.”
Who better to take over for Picayune coaching legend Dodd Lee than someone who knows the program inside and out. Cody Stogner not only played for Coach Lee, back in the day, he’s been on staff for the last 13 years serving as the offensive coordinator and o-line coach each of the last two seasons. “Well, the standards are set high in Picayune. I mean it’s been that way since Coach Lee got here back in ’95, so we’re going to continue to do what this community expects of us. This community expects perfection. This community expects a winner. And we’re going to work hard and we’re going to do everything we can to give them what they want and what they need.”
The expectations have never been higher at Picayune, fresh off its most dominant season perhaps ever. The Maroon Tide outscored opponents by an average of 34 points per game in 2019, something the 2011 and 2013 state championship teams didn’t even come close to doing. QB/ILB Isaac Hickman said, “Everybody in the town, everybody wants him to go out with a big old bang and we were just trying to give that to him. We tried our hardest, got to the state championship. We fought until the very end.”
After starting the season a perfect 14-0, the Tide ran into a buzzsaw in the 5A title game, also known as West Point. Even still, Picayune was down just five with about five minutes to go, ultimately falling 38-26 to the Green Wave as the Tide had to wave goodbye to the dream season that almost was. LG/DE Garrett Hunter said, “I don’t know about everybody else, but I know I use that to motivate myself a lot. That really drives me to think we were that close to doing it and that it is doable.”
“Having a great season like that and getting to the last one, it’s just like you missed out on something and we’re using that feeling to fuel us in the weight room, out here on the field, trying to get better.”
The biggest difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is the absence of Cameron Thomas and his 51 total touchdowns. Now a freshman running back at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Thomas ended his Picayune career with a 3,517 yard season, tied for the most rushing yards in the entire nation.
Stepping up to fill that void is the three-headed monster of Austin Samples, Dorian Robinson, and Dante Dowdell. “A lot of people think that we might not have any running backs that can replace Cam, but I think we have that under cover, and they need to look out for some of those running backs coming up.”
RG/DT Kaylup Jones said, “I mean we’re Picayune. We’re still going to run the ball, still going to run good. Dante, he shouldn’t have no problems carrying on what Cam had last year.”
Three yards and a cloud of dust has always been the key to Picayune’s success on offense and that won’t change under Coach Stogner. Neither will the program’s MTXE mantra, or its state championship or bust mentality under this year’s class of 19 seniors. “Mental toughness, extra effort.”
“Mental toughness and extra effort.”
“Mental toughness, extra effort. It’s what it’s always been, and just get that ring.”
As a result of starting the season two weeks late, Picayune only lost one road game at D’Iberville on August 28th.