Poplarville has reached the Class 4A State Championship game two times in the last three years, coming up short in each of those contests. This is another very good roster capable of another deep playoff run in 4A and possibly back to the state title game.
“We got closer last year than we did the time before, but we lost a lot of seniors,” said Poplarville coach Jay Beech. “This year we will have a lot of guys who have played a lot and know the system. They’re hungry to get better and knows what it takes. I think we will be alright.”
The Hornets did lose quarterback Antonio Barnes, whose started each of the last four seasons, but will have Blaise Breerwood to step in under center. The entire backfield is back to lead a rushing attack that averaged 340.1 yards per game last year.
Chase Shears is back after rushing for 1,316 yards with 19 touchdowns to lead the ground game, while Ethan Taylor returns after rushing for 961 yards with seven touchdowns. Watch for Cory Knight and Caziah Daniels.
“The key for us will be the offensive line,” Beech said. “We will have the biggest line we’ve had but just two starters are back, so we will be young and inexperienced and will need game reps.”
On defense with five starters back the Hornets must lean on linebacker Zac Owen, who was second on the team in tackles last year with 102. Also back is defensive end Devin Hart who led the team in sacks with seven and had 75 tackles. Hunter Martin is back at nose guard to help lead the front seven.
Breerwood will anchor the secondary along with Torry Polk.
“Defensively we will get after it like we’ve always done and will bring a lot of energy,” Beech said. “Our division is going to be tough with Stone and Greene County being so familiar with us. I know 4A South is going to be tough with a lot of teams returning a good bit of starters.”
NEXT IN LINE
Louisville: The Tyrone Shorter era begins as the Wildcats look to defend their 4A state championship. Shorter was great at Noxubee County, maintaining the championship standard. Just like with any new coach all positions are up for grabs, but the Wildcats do have major talents returning. Bryandrea Shumaker will step in as quarterback after throwing for 1,108 yards with 11 touchdowns last year. He added 439 yards rushing with six touchdowns. Niselbyion Kirk and Michael Foster will both play running back, while David Haynes is the top wide receiver returning. Defensively is where Louisville took a hit, but in this program, it is next man up. Kristian Hopkins, who led the team in tackles at 146, is back at linebacker to anchor the defense, while Jy’kevious Hibbler returns at defensive end to help lead up front.
Greenwood: The Greenwood program is on the rise. The Bulldogs came up just short against Louisville in the 4A North State Championship game and are aiming to make another deep run in the 4A playoffs. Greenwood has nine starters back on offense, anchored by promising sophomore quarterback Deandre Smith who passed for 1,667 yards with 17 touchdowns last season as a freshman. A lot of his top targets are back in running back Jamarion Addison and two big receivers Kobe Chamber and Daylin Metcalf. Sophomore Defensive end Davin Anderson returns after recording 117 tackles and 22 sacks last year, along with Jaylen Blake at defensive tackle. The Bulldogs must replace all three starting linebackers from last year. Travor Randle (six interceptions in 2018) is back to lead the secondary.
Greene County: Wildcats are trying to get over that second round hump that has eliminated them each of the last two seasons. Greene County has a veteran team returning with seven starters back on both sides of the ball. Offensively the Wildcats have quarterback Jacob Mitchell returning after throwing for 2,514 yards with 22 touchdowns. His top target returns at receiver in Drake Henderson. A veteran offensive line is also back, and Anthony Calhoun will switch from defensive back to running back. On defense the Wildcats will have Ladon Woullard and Jaheim Cooper back at linebacker along with defensive ends Hunter McLeod and Joshua Bolton to anchor the front seven. Kade Kittrell and Malachi Graham are back to anchor the secondary.
South Pike: South Pike is coming off an 11-win season that ended up in the third round of the Class 4A playoffs. South Pike returns eight starters back on offense after averaging 44.4 points per game last year. Quarterback Dontavious Turner is back after throwing for 1,293 yards with 20 touchdowns and also rushed for 1,034 yards with 16 touchdowns to lead the offense. Kadarius Jackson returns at running back to lead the ground game that averaged 343.4 yards per game last year. Alex Adams (691 yards, 13 touchdowns) is back as the top target at wide receiver. He’s a player the rest of the state should know about soon. On defense all four linebackers are back led by Marquell Brumfield and Angus Armstrong. In the secondary Felix Varnado and Izavious Crossley return to anchor the back end.
Corinth: Corinth has unfinished business coming off an 11-win season that saw them lose a shootout to Greenwood in the third round of the playoffs. With eight starters back on offense the Warriors again will rely on a run-heavy offense that averaged 343.3 yards per game last year. Quarterback D.T. Sheffield is back after passing for 1,021 yards with 12 touchdowns and also rushing for 1,052 yards with 14 touchdowns. Running back Tameron Patterson returns after rushing for 1,814 yards with 23 touchdowns. Linebacker Carter Bonds (229 tackles last year) is back to lead the defense. Also back up front for the Warriors are defensive end Mathew Biggs and defensive tackle DeShaun Brooks. Sheffield and Nazarius Jones will anchor the secondary.
Pontotoc: Even with breaking in a new quarterback, the Warriors look to once again make a run in the 4A playoffs. Pontotoc is breaking in a new quarterback but will have plenty of targets to throw to at receiver with Caleb Hobson, Tres Vaughn and Cade Armstrong back among others to spread the ball around to. Linebacker Arderrius Townsend and free safety Monte Townsend return to anchor the defense.
Stone: Stone dropped to 4A from 5A and are anxious to make an immediate impact. Caleb Armstrong is back to lead the run-heavy offense and Kaleb Giliner is back at receiver. Linebacker Josten James and defensive back A.J. Petty is back to lead the defense.
- Greene County
GAMES TO WATCH
Oct. 11: Poplarville at Stone
Oct. 18: North Pike at Lawrence County
Oct. 18: Greene County at Stone
Oct. 25: Greene County at Poplarville
Oct. 25: Greenwood at Clarksdale
Nov. 1: Shannon at Pontotoc
Nov. 1: Louisville at Kosciusko
Nov. 1: North Pike at South Pike