By Blake Long | Special to the Journal
JACKSON – The MHSAA Class 5A Championship Game came down to a series of scoring runs. Picayune took the first, and last runs, and also their second state championship.
Trailing 21-17 entering the final quarter, the Maroon Tide scored the games final 21 points to claim a 38-21 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
Picayune quarterback Ben Hickman would complete only four passes the entire game, but all four came in crucial situations for the Maroon Tide.
His final completion of the game went for fifteen yards to Justin Mark to cap a 14 play, 93-yard drive for the eventual game-winning touchdown that put the Maroon Tide up 24-21.
“He told me at halftime, ‘I can throw a couple of more touchdowns,'” Picayune coach Dodd Lee said. “I said, ‘If you can throw one more, we’re going to win the football game.'”
Starkville’s offense couldn’t find the groove they had in the third quarter in their first two fourth-quarter possessions, resulting in a three-and-out and an interception by Ken Breland.
Picayune (13-2) turned both possession changes into scores, the first a 17-yard rushing touchdown by Preston Dedeaux.
Breland’s interception translated to Greene’s 15-yard scoring run that clinched Picayune’s first state championship 1986.
“We ran over them at the end of the third quarter and fourth,” said Lee. “I think we wore them down a little bit. They played a few guys both ways more than we did.”
Picayune, who racked up 459 yards of offense compared to Starkville’s 275, scored the first 17 points of the game, but Starkville responded.
Dual-threat quarterback Gabe Myles used his legs to score all three of the Yellowjackets’ touchdowns.
His first, right before halftime, left Starkville down 17-6 at the break.
Myles would erupt on the second play out of halftime. Following a pass interference penalty on an incomplete pass that would have put Starkville at 3rd and 10, Myles broke through the middle of the field for a 56-yard touchdown.
Following his two-point conversion pass to Preston Baker, Myles would give the Yellowjackets their first lead on their next drive.
A quarterback sneak capped a nine-play drive in which he toted the ball six of the plays and put Starkville (12-3) up 21-17 with 4:16 remaining in the third.
Myles, a junior, finished with 165 yards rushing, but struggled passing, completing 6 of 22 for 52 yards.
“He made big, big plays with his feet,” Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell said. “He’s got to get back and get his mechanics a little bit better throwing the football.”
Picayune scored on their first play from scrimmage as Desmond Taylor broke free for a 64-yard touchdown run just 16 seconds into the contest.
Hickman and Mark connected for a 79-yard touchdown and Dalton O’Meara hit a 23-yard field goal that put Picayune up 17-0.
“Our kids have got heart, and I can promise you that,” Mitchell said of his club, which returns nine offensive starters next season. “They battled to the bloody end.”