By Brandon Speck
All five Journal area football teams came home from Jackson empty-handed from the weekend’s MHSAA state football championships.
There was the wacky – a Smithville run to the wrong end zone on a French Camp punt – that wound up being a dead ball. In the same game, the weird – a fair catch that went for a touchdown – and counted.
There were close games. Tupelo lost a bid for its first title since 1992 thanks to a trick play – a fake field goal that went for a touchdown in Oak Grove’s 14-7 win.
Tupelo linebacker James Gilleylen couldn’t help feel the Golden Wave missed an opportunity.
“We just couldn’t execute. They are nowhere near better than us,” Gilleylen said. “I’m sorry to say that, but they’re not. Last week we beat the best team in 6A (South Panola). We come in this week, we get beat by them.”
Tupelo, the top defense in 6A, held Oak Grove to 23 points below its season average.
There was a blowout – Division I-loaded Bassfield beat Calhoun City 48-7.
In the 4A game, a 21-6 Lafayette loss to Forrest County AHS, the Commodores looked to have scored with more than 3 minutes left in the game on Montrel Nabors’ touchdown catch. But officials controversially ruled he went out of bounds before catching the pass. Nabors and coach Eric Robertson said Nabors was pushed.
In Class 5A, Oxford had a 14-point lead with a bit more than a half a quarter to play. But three Picayune touchdowns later, the Chargers’ perfect season and its first state title were gone in a 42-35 loss.
Picayune won on a freshly-drawn play that Kardarius Cross swept left and scored a 75-yard touchdown on.
“We just put that in this week,” Cross said. “I was quick enough to get around the edge.”
Oxford got to Veterans Memorial Stadium with a sophomore-heavy class. Quarterback Jack Abraham threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-39 passing. Back Kenzie Phillips rushed for 87 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. Losing starting center Colton Skidmore early in the third quarter didn’t help.
Oxford coach Johnny Hill dismissed the role of his team’s youth in the loss.
“It had nothing to do with it,” Hill said. “They’re a good bunch of guys. We played some good football teams and they ain’t blinked. They didn’t blink tonight. We plan on being back here.”