It’s championship week in Mississippi, and all six games are set for Friday and Saturday at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.
Here’s a look at the MHSAA Class 5A State Championship game, set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
Picayune (14-0) vs. West Point (11-2)
Picayune at a glance
- Record: 14-0 (7-0 in Region 4)
- Head Coach: Cody Stogner (3rd year, 36-4 overall)
- Key Players: RB Dante Dowdell, LB Amarion Tyson, DL Jamonta Waller
- State Championships: 6 (1925, 1948, 1986, 2011, 2013, 2021)
Picayune is the only remaining undefeated team in Mississippi’s public schools, and that designation should come with an exclamation mark.
The Maroon Tide beat perennial title contenders Poplarville and Jeff Davis County to open the year, then dispatched 6A foes Gulfport and D’Iberville before running roughshod through a 7-0 Region 4-5A stretch.
The only team to give the Tide fits all year was Gautier and its splendid quarterback Kaden Irving, and Picayune dispatched them 49-14 in the rematch in South State last week.
What is left to say about the Maroon Tide? They are the defending 5A State Champs, led again by 2022 5A Mr. Football tailback Dante Dowdell and an offensive line that hasn’t found a front they can’t block. When Dowdell is on the sideline, the West Point defense can expect a dose of junior Chris Davis, who is surely the odds-on favorite to win the 2023 Mr. Football award after Dowdell leaves for Oregon.
Defensively, the Tide has a couple of absolute studs in Amarion Tyson and Jamonta Waller. The duo has combined for 258 total tackles and 33.5 behind the line of scrimmage.
As a unit, the defense has only given up 154 points in 14 games, and 56 of those points came in two games against Irving and Gautier.
West Point at a glance
- Record: 11-2 (7-0 in Region 1)
- Head Coach: Chris Chambless (17th year, 195-41 overall)
- Key Players: QB Kahnen Daniels, RB Keshawn Henley, LB Jhace Mallard
- State Championships: 11 (1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
West Point started off the season 0-2 with losses to two of the very best teams in the state (Louisville and Starkville) and everyone wrote them off. They are 11-0 since then and poised to compete for the 12th state championship in school history.
The Wave’s average margin of victory in Region 1 games was 33.4 points, but they have played close games the last two times out, in a 34-33 win over Neshoba County in Round 2 and a 14-0 win over Vicksburg in North State.
West Point had the skill guys, but they needed to replace four good linemen from last season in order to effectively run coach Chris Chambless’ option-happy rushing attack.
The early-going was rough, but the numbers bear out the progress they’ve made: quarterback Kahnen Daniels, star tailback Keshawn Henley and power back Q.T. Evans have combined for 3,678 rushing yards and 47 touchdowns on the ground.
Against Picayune defensively, the Wave has its work cut out for it, but they’ve got the personnel to slow them down. Jhace Mallard is a bonafide player, with 64 tackles, including 18 behind the line. They’ll need solid games from he and senior Corbin Hendricks, who has emerged as a leader as well.