Bobcats host Poplarville Friday

By CAMAL PETRO,

A week after Sumrall coach Shannon White mentioned closing out games is the next step for his team, the Bobcats did just that against Lawrence County in a 34-20 win.

As the Cougars threatened to score in the fourth quarter, Sumrall forced a turnover, then used the ground game to burn time while driving 50-plus yards to complete the win.

“Anytime you can do that, it’s good,” White said. “We needed that. Part of becoming a better team is winning games in the fourth quarter. We did that last week, so it’s something you can build off of and it should pay dividends for you.”

Not only that, the Bobcats’ defense got back on track and held the Cougars to 13 points, but Lawrence County did return a kickoff for a touchdown in the second quarter. The defensive play was a good sight to see for White and his coaches, especially after allowing Pass Christian and Purvis to score 34 and 35 points, respectively, in back-to-back games.

Again, White was even more impressed with how the defense closed out the game.

“They really stepped up, especially late,” he said. “We were in a similar situation the last two games when we were up in the fourth, but they made the plays (against Lawrence County). They got a turnover late and made a big goal line stand. They just played really well the whole game. We had a couple of busts here or there, but overall, just a really good effort by our defense.”

The Sumrall defense will have a tough task this week, though, as it’ll entertain the defending 4A South State Champions, Poplarville. The Hornets’ offense has rushed for 2,908 yards and 32 touchdowns on 239 carries – an 8.8-yard per carry and 415-yard per game average.

Senior running back Austin Bolton, who’s rushed for 4,423 yards and 53 touchdowns on 506 carries in his three-year career, leads the team with 1,358 yards and 17 touchdowns on 114 attempts. When he hit the 1,000-yard mark earlier this season, it was his third time in his career he captured that feat.

Senior Roosevelt Raine is second on the team with 743 rushing yards, six touchdowns and 99 carries, and junior Tyson Holston has 56 rushing attempts, 403 yards and three touchdowns. Junior quarterback Antonio Barnes only has 269 passing yards on 15-of-30 completions with a touchdown and three interceptions, as the Hornets pass the ball 8 percent of their offensive plays.

Believe it or not, White thinks this Poplarville team is better than last year’s team, too.

“They’re better than they were last year, and I didn’t think they would be because they lost some good players, but they certainly look better to me than they were last year,” White said. “I think the statistics bear that out, too. They’re blocking well, they’re coached well and they have some talent, and that’s always a good combination.”

Defensively, the Hornets have racked up seven interceptions, seven fumble recoveries and 36 tackles for loss while allowing opponents to score 13 points per game. They’ve pitched two shutouts to Seminary (47-0) and Forrest County AHS (31-0), and held all but two teams to less than 15 points. Picayune scored 24 in a 27-24 loss to the Hornets, and Greene County had a season-high 36 points against their defense in a 54-36 barnburner.

“They just play great defense, they get to the football and they tackle really well,” White said. “They don’t give up a lot of big plays, and all of those are signs of a good defense.”