News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days: Picayune Maroon Tide
The epitome of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ Picayune checks in as stop number two on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days.
The Maroon Tide football factory has been a model of consistency for years, but after a tale of two seasons in 2020, the boys from Picayune are hungrier than ever for a return to state championship form. It all starts in the weight room.
“It’s very easy to stay at home and to stay in bed and eat Cheerios than to show up here and put in a workout and run 10 stadiums, 10 sprints and run a mile. So, we’ve got to give our guys credit.”
At Picayune, trading out cereal for protein powder is always the price of off-season admission. “We’re over here working our butts off, and like it says on the back of our shirts, it’s hard to play against us. It’s harder to play for us.”
Linebacker Josh Tatum said, “We play against tough teams, but once people from other teams, they see that it’s harder to run these 110’s and stuff that we do in the heat and all this other stuff, cause our mentality is just off the wall.”
Their mentality is also on the wall, literally, a tradition of state championship excellence three times over, serving as some friendly motivation to get in that last rep. Wing back/ Outside linebacker Noah Carter said, “A lot of these people on this team, I feel like a lot of these people really working, like they really want to work. A lot of people coming to practice, a lot of people showing up, putting in work.
“The pressure of winning is a great thing. I love it. I mean I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The Maroon Tide has played for the 5A state crown as recently as 2019, but came up short of the almost undefeated dream season at the hands of West Point.
Would have been pretty easy for Picayune to drop the ball in 2020, instead, the Tide ripped off eight straight wins to start the year, back as if they never left. “That’s the mentality here. We expect to win. And we had a lot of guys return from that state championship team last year, and they had tons of experience on that team playing football. And to come out on fire like that, I mean we expect to win around here.”
After a near two-year stretch of going a combined 22-1, Picayune fell victim to its first regular season loss since 2018 on a Saturday at Pascagoula following Hurricane Zeta. “First couple eight games, we went out with our heads on fire, then that one game we had in the daytime, just shut down and lost all our mentality, and just gave up from there.”
The Tide went on to lose to Wayne County the following week, costing them the region 4 class 5A title and ultimately sealing their fate with a 35-23 first round playoff loss to eventual state champion West Jones en route to an overall mark of 8-3. “We lost that one game and I think it just got in our head.”
Defensive lineman Ryan Pascal said, “We thought we were going right back again, but I think that loss got in our heads because that was really the first loss we’ve had since the State game.”
“That’s no way we like to end the season. We feel like we were better than how we finished the season, and there’s a lot of high expectations for Picayune football and we’re working hard to build that back up.”
At the end of the day, Picayune football is still Picayune football. The starting quarterback job is up for grabs, but history says the Tide, and it’s nine returning starters, will bounce right back all over again in 2021 on the strength of a ‘stop it if you can’ power offense led by junior running back Dante Dowdell as well as 17 seniors that simply refuse to skip leg day. “It really is motivation now because what the coaches always say – we’re in the locker room – they say it hurts and they tell us the 35-21, that hurts a lot more than just lifting weights and stuff.”
“We’re not dwelling on what happened last season, how it ended and we don’t talk about the would’ve, could’ve should’ve’s. This is a new team, new year, so everything in the past is the past. We can’t do anything but worry about the future.”
The Tide opens the season at home against reigning 4A South State champion Poplarville on August 27th.