Poplarville quarterback Avan Jarvis was stood up at the goal line on fourth down in the second quarter of the 4A south state title game.
It would be the closest the Hornets’ offense would come to scoring, and ultimately loomed large in the 12-7 loss to Columbia.
“We might’ve been an inch away from winning the game,” Poplarville head coach Jay Beech said after the game.
The Wildcats struck first with a 33-yard touchdown pass, but failed to convert the extra point. Poplarville had an opportunity to answer in the first half but lost a fumble inside the red zone.
Then came the long Hornet drive just before halftime that ended painfully close to the solid white line.
“We had a wedge play in that we ran very successfully for years,” Beech said. “We just allowed some penetration from the linebacker and didn’t get it in.”
That linebacker was Alabama Crimson Tide commit Jeheim Oatis, a key piece of an athletic defense that held in check a typically punishing Hornets ground attack.
“They have great athletes on defense,” Beech said. “An Alabama commit in the middle, probably two Division I defensive ends on the outside. Nobody is going to move the ball really well against them.”
The only points Poplarville scratched across came on a 47-yard fumble returned for a touchdown by Nakiel Trotter in the third quarter.
This was Poplarville’s sixth consecutive appearance in the semifinal game of the 4A playoffs, and the sixth straight year the Hornets are left without the prize of the state title trophy.
Though the Hornets came up just short again, Beech is proud of what his players and program have accomplished.
“We feel blessed,” Beech said. “We feel proud of our team. We’ve laid it all on the line each Friday night. We’ve played our butts off every week and made it farther than a lot of people can ever dream of making it and came up short sometimes. I’m proud of our guys. All I can say right now is I’m proud of our guys.”
Poplarville has won a staggering 68 games since 2016, with four region titles and four south state titles. The Hornets quest for their first state championship will have to continue in 2022.