Despite having success moving the ball down the field for most of the night and coming up with some key stops on defense, penalties and a strong running game from their opponents did the North Pike Jaguars in as they fell to the Poplarville Hornets 23-20 at home, Friday in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“The last one is always a hard one,” North Pike head coach Chris Smith said. “I feel like we played our tails off. We had a couple of big plays called back. We had a chance to make a couple of big plays there to win the ball game and it just didn’t bounce our way. All in all, I loved our effort. That is a very good football team that we played.”
It only took four plays for the Jaguars (6-7) to make some noise as Damuriyon Montgomery ran through a large hole created by his offensive line and sprinted to the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown run and with the extra point by Jace Brown, the Jaguars took a 7-0 lead.
The North Pike defense fed off of that early intensity, forcing a 3-and-out on the Hornets’ (7-5) first drive.
It appeared that the Jaguars were going to make it a two-score game as they had success moving the ball down the field, mostly through the passing game. But once the Jaguars got the ball inside the Hornet 10-yard line, the offense began to sputter. A pair of negative runs preceded an interception, which halted the North Pike drive.
Early in the second quarter, Poplarville put up its first points of the game. The drive started at the Hornets' own 18-yard line, and they had three different backs tote the rock during the possession. On the 11th play of the drive Gregory Swann scored from 15 yards out. During the extra point try, North Pike was penalized for being offsides, moving the ball closer. It proved to be beneficial for the Hornets and they successfully converted on the 2-point try to take their first lead of the night at 8-7.
The Jaguars were forced into a 3-and-out and on the first play of the ensuing Poplarville drive, the Hornets added to their lead following a 37-yard touchdown run by Caziah Daniels. Poplarville took a 15-7 advantage.
But North Pike senior quarterback Alijah Martin and the Jaguars answered right back. Martin completed a pair of key passes before hitting Jacoby Matthews on a 25-yard touchdown pass. The 2-point try was no good but North Pike pulled within two at 15-13.
With under a minute to go in the half, the Jaguars took their first lead since early in the first quarter when Martin tossed his second touchdown pass on the evening, this time a 30-yarder to Zamarea Fountain, making the score 20-15 in favor of the hosts.
The Hornets came out swinging in the second half, driving the ball down the field before Zac Owen capped-off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. And for the second time in the contest another offsides penalty on North Pike during the extra point try moved the ball closer. And Poplarville took advantage, successfully converting on the 2-point try taking a 23-20 lead at the 9:21 mark of the third quarter
After that, the North Pike offense could not get into a rhythm for the remainder of the period.
Early in the fourth, the Jaguar offense began to show some life. Fueled by a fumble recovery from the defense halting a Hornet drive deep in Jaguar territory, North Pike went back mostly to the passing game in an effort to move the ball down the field. Completions to Jermarius Lewis helped set the Jaguars up in prime position to retake the lead.
Martin connected with Matthews on a 36-yard touchdown strike, but it was called back due to a holding penalty. The Jaguars quickly rebounded and continued inching closer to the goal line. It appeared that they scored a touchdown on a slant pass, but the officialsaid that the receiver never fully had possession.
North Pike could not keep the drive going as two plays later, the Jaguars turned the ball over on downs.
From there, the Hornets went back to their bread and butter, displaying their power rushing attack which helped them move the ball into Jaguar territory before eventually running out the clock, sealing the win and ending the season for North Pike.
The Jaguars were led by Martin who completed 15-of-25 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. On the ground he rushed for 108 yards on 18 carries.
Coach Smith is disappointed in the way that the season ended but he is anxious to see how his 2020 squad will look. North Pike will enter the year looking to replace nine seniors who played their final game Friday night.
“We are going to lose some seniors who were great leaders, great contributors for us,” he said. “I know those juniors and sophomores are in that locker room right now and they are hungry. They are ready to get to work.”