25 teams in 25 Days: Poplarville Hornets
For the second time in three years, Class 4A South runs through stop number six on News 25’s ’25 Teams in 25 Days.’
There’s no indication of that changing heading into 2019, with Poplarville reloaded and back for another shot at the ever-elusive state title.
For the Hornets, that road back to Hattiesburg starts at this week’s annual team competition.
Wide receiver/defensive end K.J. Hart said, “Ironman is just a series of max-outs and it’s a competition. And your name gets put on a banner that goes in our film room and it is there forever. And so it’s like leaving your legacy, basically.”
Not only high stakes in terms of pride and bragging rights, the winner of the Hornet Ironman Competition will also be automatically designated as one of four team captains for 2019. “It just shows you who you’re going to war with every day, the kind of competitors we have in this weight room.”
Head Coach Jay Beech said, “Kind of shows you who’s a competitor on your team. Who can you trust to put on the field by how hard they really compete in any situation? Especially in this situation. Even if you’re not going to finish in the Top 10, we still want to see how you compete. We still want to see if we can trust you when we put you out on the field on that Friday night.”
Reliability is a vital component of Poplarville’s well-oiled machine that saw the Hornets outscore opponents by an average of more than 25 points per game last season.
The end result was a second straight 13-win campaign, validated by their commanding triumph over East Central in the 4A South State championship rematch, aka the Hornet Bowl. Quarterback Blaise Breerwood said, “Ha. East Central. That was a game that everybody was hyped about, but for us it was just another game. It was a great opportunity to play East Central again. They’re a great football team. But absolutely, our eyes were on the prize with a state championship and to come up short it hurt.”
Poplarville’s second state title game appearance since 2016 was then spoiled by Louisville the following week. The Hornets had a two-possession lead over the Wildcats midway through the third quarter, but were unable to score in the final 20 minutes as history repeated itself in the form of utter heartbreak. “Just how close it was. We won the first three quarters, but you don’t base a game off three quarters. It takes four.”
“Well, you’re always going to go back and ask yourself as a coach how – why did we lose this game? What cost us this game? And you take a mental note and you sort of address those issues throughout the season.”
Running back Chase Shears said, “It’s a learning experience. When we had the game we should have just kept on pushing. But things happen for a reason. Maybe that wasn’t our year.”
Maybe this is the year for a program still in search of its first-ever gold ball. The Hornets have replaced 24 outgoing seniors with 21 new ones ready to take the sting out of what could have been with what could be. “The legacy we’re trying to leave is just as the other classes. Always doing the absolute best that we can and the fact that we’ve come so close, and we’ve got to finish. And we just want to be that group that does it.”
“I mean it’s the last year, we’ve got to make it the best one. We want to try to go back to State, hopefully win it. Give all the glory to God, and he’ll be with us every step of the way.”
Poplarville has been simply dominant over the past three seasons, racking up an overall record of 38-5. The Hornets will kick off 2019 at home against Laurel on August 23rd.
They’ll be crowning their Ironman winner on Wednesday.