South State Preview, Part III: Picayune still perfect ahead of 5A semifinals rematch vs. Gautier

PICAYUNE, Miss. — The Picayune football team is still the defending 5A state champions until proven otherwise, and so far, no one has proven otherwise as the Maroon Tide finds itself back in the South State title game for the second year in a row and the third time in four years.

But the Tide hasn’t necessarily had an easy road back to this point, especially in its second round game against West Jones, trailing the Mustangs 17-7 after three quarters, only to score 21 unanswered points to close out the game and keep the dream season alive.

Picayune has now won 24 games in a row, with other recent wins coming against Laurel in the first round and then Gautier in the regular season finale for the Region 4-5A title.

The Gators gave the Tide all it could handle in that 48-42 instant classic, but senior running back Dante Dowdell sealed the deal with a 10-yard touchdown run in overtime.

The Oregon commit and U.S. Army Bowl All-American is leading the way once again this season, rushing for more than 1,700 yards and 23 touchdowns, alongside three-star recruit Chris Davis, who has nearly 900 yards and 15 touchdowns of his own.

Ready of not, Picayune is just two wins away from its fifth MHSAA gold ball, and yet still finding a way to rewrite the history books.

“I feel better because that put us through the challenge, and I feel like really no one can stop us after that,” said Picayune senior left tackle Gage Thibodeaux.

“We’ve never had a team to go undefeated in Picayune history and hopefully we can do that, and we’ve never had a team that went back-to-back state championships, so hopefully we can do both of those things and make history at Picayune,” said Dowdell.

“You enjoy it by just looking back and talking about all the hard work you put in since January 1,” said Picayune head football coach Cody Stogner. “The blood, sweat and tears that’s gone through and just the amount of effort that’s been put in in the weight room over the summer time and on the field and just going back and looking back at the last 13 games, 14 games. A lot of things went our way. Some things didn’t, and it’s just fun, man. High school football, there’s nothing like it. You’ve dealt with the hand that you’re dealt with and you’ve got to do the best you can with it, and all four teams left in the state are good. They’ve got good coaching staffs and good players, so it’s fun. It’s going to be two really good teams going at it Friday night, and it’s probably going to be Part II of what you saw three weeks ago, so I hope everybody gets in here and gets here early.”

The Maroon Tide and Gators kick things off from Lee-Triplett Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday.

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