PICAYUNE – At halftime, with the score between Petal and Picayune tied 21-21, the buzz was that whichever team could make a defensive stop in the second half would win.
And it was the host Maroon Tide that stopped the Panthers in the second half, while their offense just kept rolling right along.
By the time Petal finally did stop Picayune, there were less than four minutes remaining in the game, and the Maroon Tide had a convincing 56-35 victory well in hand.
“They’re explosive, and you can’t make any mistakes with their offense,” said Petal junior defensive back Jalen Boney. “One mistake, and they pick up on it.”
How good was Picayune on offense?
Well, the Maroon Tide ran the ball 47 times, and gained 509 yards. Just for good measure, the Tide also completed 2 of 3 passes for 67 yards, including a halfback pass by star tailback Preston Dedeaux for a first-half score.
Dedeaux also ran 23 times for 159 yards, but the real killer for Petal was senior Desmond Taylor, who torched the Panthers for 214 yards on just 14 carries. Picayune also got an 84-yard scoring run by junior Johnathan Baker.
“That’s the way we play,” said Picayune coach Dodd Lee. “We have a lot of people who can run the football, although we can throw it when we have to.
“But our guys know what they’re doing. We’ve got 10 guys (on offense) from a team that wasn’t too bad last year.”
In fact, Picayune (2-0) looked very much like a team that’s ready to repeat as state champions in Class 5A.
“They’re a great offensive team,” said Petal coach Marcus Boyles. “They should be. They have 10 offensive starters back from a state championship team.”
Still, Petal matched the Maroon Tide score for score in the first half.
After Taylor took the first play from scrimmage 78 yards for a Picayune touchdown, Petal came right back with a 10-play, 65-yard drive, with Larson Barkurn scoring on a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
But Dedeaux scored the first of his two rushing touchdowns on a 5-yard run, and later threw a halfback pass for a 30-yard score to Deveon Greene.
Petal answered with a 9-yard run by Tyus Raine and a 9-yard touchdown pass from Barkurn to Jesse Jackson with 20 seconds to play in the first half.
By then, Barkurn had completed 12 of 16 passes for 182 yards. But he was shut down in the second half, completing just 3 of 9 passes for 18 yards.
“The second half, the made some adjustments, but we’ll learn from this,” Barkurn said. “Our defense is used to facing spread teams, so this is the last time they’ll face a team like this. They’ll be better.
“Offensively, we just have to keep clicking and we can”t turn the ball over.”
Indeed, Barkurn’s only big mistake proved fatal for Petal.
After the Maroon Tide stopped the Panthers with a three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half, they scored on Baker’s big run.
Petal came right back with a 14-yard TD run by Barkurn, but after Picayune regained the lead on a 1-yard plunge by quarterback Ben Hickman, Barkurn was picked off on the first play of the drive.
Dedeaux scored again on a 7-yard run, and after another three-and-out, the Tide rolled again on Taylor’s third score of the game to cap a 28-point third quarter.
“We knew they were a heavy running team,” said Boney. “We didn’t stay on our tracks, didn’t play as a group, and as a result, they picked us apart one-by-one.”