Just last season, North Pike came up short against Poplarville in the second round of the playoffs. Fast forward to 2020 and the Jaguars had another opportunity against the Hornets in the playoffs, this time in the third round.
Even though North Pike went in to Friday's game with loads of confidence after defeating previously-undefeated Newton County last week, mistakes and a stout Hornet running game were too much as the hosts fell 62-6.
Early miscues were a big contributor to setbacks that the Jaguars had trouble getting over. On the first play of the game a tipped pass intercepted turning the ball over and giving the Hornets an early shot of momentum.
“Ultimately what we said in the beginning was that we couldn’t make those mistakes and (the Hornets) are not gonna make those mistakes, and that’s what happened. They did not make those mistakes and we did,” North Pike head coach Matt Mock said.
Poplarville was able to leverage its possession of the ball to get a touchdown about 4:00 into the quarter, giving them the early lead.
Looking to rebound, the Jaguars were set for a long drive, however, a high snap resulted in a recovery by the Hornets inside the North Pike 5-yard line. After recovering, the Hornets jumped ahead 13-0 on just the second play of the drive following a short touchdown run.
The Jaguar offense struggled to get into rhythm ultimately resulting in a punt. Poplarville, once again, showed little trouble moving the ball down the field using their wing-t set and bevy of running backs. The Hornets scored once again putting the Jaguars in a 20-0 hole.
It was more of the same early in the second quarter. North Pike struggled to move the ball consistently while the Hornets did not, getting yet another score to take a 27-0 lead.
Then things began to click for the Jaguars as they demonstrated a stronger offensive presence. In addition to getting in a groove on offense North Pike was assisted by Poplarville personal foul and pass interference calls as the Jaguars moved closer to the end zone. A 27-yard pass from Jermarius Lewis to Jacoby Matthews finally put North Pike on the scoreboard with 5:40 left in the second quarter making it a 27-6 contest.
However the visitors answered back with a pair of scores before the half putting more distance between themselves and the Jaguars.
The Hornets took control for most of the third quarter and added another score making it a 48-6 contest.
“I mean, that’s a good football team. You can look over there and see that, you can look on the scoreboard and see they’re a good team,” said Mock, referring to Poplarville.
The Hornets continued to pour it on in the fourth before sealing the win and ending the Jaguars' run.
“We fought hard at the end there. I like the way we came back out and we didn’t quit,” Mock said. “I’m proud of our guys. We did something really special here, finishing the year basically 8-2 and making it to the third round of the playoffs. It’s not how we wanted it to end, but we need to be happy with what we did.”
In reflecting on the season, Mock expressed his positive feelings on the various highs and lows for North Pike’s football team, describing it as a “roller-coaster year.”
“I said in the beginning we were ‘writing a book,'" Mock said. "Chapter one was really weird. We get shut down for a whole semester, don’t get a spring, get a weird summer. We came back and had some good advantages throughout the game… but ultimately, I love the kids fighting back the adversity that they overcame."
He commended the seniors as well, adding, “They’re gonna be remembered for really turning this program around and in the future we’re gonna have a lot of success because of the way they fought all the way through.”