'Nobody gave us a chance all year': Picayune upsets West Point in MHSAA 5A football championship

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HATTIESBURG - Picayune coach Cody Stogner knew the Maroon Tide were heavy underdogs against West Point in the MHSAA 5A football championship at Southern Miss.

The Green Wave advanced to six consecutive state title games and won four consecutive from 2016-19.

However, none of that mattered on Saturday night.

Picayune (14-1) upset West Point 40-21 and held the Green Wave (11-3) to seven points in the second half.

"Nobody gave us a chance all year," Stogner said. "That's just the way it was. That's what we preached every week. We're gonna work hard and try to get better every day. It didn't matter who we played. We knew we would show up on time and give it our best effort. That's what we were able to do tonight."

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Junior running back Dante Dowdell led the way with 25 carries, 149 yards and two touchdowns as the Maroon Tide avenged their 2019 state championship game loss to West Point.

"It always feels good to win this game," Stogner said. "But those guys are a great football team, a great program. I don't know how you don't want to mirror what those guys have been doing year in and year out."

Picayune took control in the second half. The Maroon Tide trailed 21-20 with 8:47 left in the third quarter before Darrell Smith broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run. The freshman running back finished with 10 carries for 88 yards.

Dowdell and Smith were joined by Chris Davis as Picayune's three-headed rushing attack. Davis finished with eight carries for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

"They do their jobs," Dowdell said of his offensive line. "Plus you see me, I run you over a couple of times and you don't want to get hit no more."

Dowdell capped of a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 11:10 remaining. The score gave Picayune a 34-21 lead.

"I want to be known as the best running back in Mississippi and tonight I think I proved it," Dowdell said.

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Sophomore defensive end Jamonta Waller sealed the victory with a 35-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown on the following drive.

"We worked so hard for this and we did it," Waller said. "They doubted us all season long. Every team, they doubted us. We got it done though."

The second half defensive performance was a culmination of what Stogner believed for most of the season. The Maroon Tide allowed 16 points per game during their 11-game winning streak.

"We're young there on defense," Stogner said. "But I've said it from about Week 5, I believe we got the best defense in the state and they fly around."

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: MS high school football: Picayune upsets West Point for 5A title

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