The West Jones Mustangs’ season came to an end on Friday with a 49-14 defeat at the hands of the Picayune Maroon Tide in the 5A South State championship. Despite having early success on offense, the Mustangs were unable to match the scoring pace of senior running back Cameron Thomas and the Tide.
“I wish I could tell you there was one reason that we lost, but there wasn’t,” said head coach Scott Pierson. “We got out-coached, we got out-played and we got out-executed. They came in with a single-minded purpose and did what they always do. Tonight, they were the better team, no ands, ifs or buts about it.”
The Tide wasted little time establishing the rushing attack it’s been known for for generations, receiving the opening kickoff and marching nearly 60 yards for the first score of the night on a 1-yard run by junior quarterback Isaac Hickman.
The Mustangs responded quickly with a three-play, 70-yard touchdown drive, ending with a 1-yard touchdown run by junior running back Kentrell Pruitt to tie the score at 7.
West Jones’ defense forced the Tide’s offense to punt on its second drive, but the Mustangs were unable to take the lead with another score. On a third-and-long late in the quarter, Thomas broke free around the edge for a 24-yard touchdown run to once again put Picayune ahead. On the last play of the quarter, Hickman threw a 30-yard pass on fourth down to senior receiver Jalen Hall, setting up another 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter that extended the lead to 21-7.
Having elected to kick at the beginning of the game, the Mustangs received the first possession of the second half but were unable to cut into the lead. Thomas then scored on a 31-yard carry, creating an even greater uphill climb for the reigning South State champs.
Follis threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Tajrick Randolph on the following drive, and a forced punt gave the Mustangs back possession with an opportunity to come within one score of the Tide. However, Picayune recovered a fumble after a strip sack early in the drive to stifle the Mustangs’ momentum.
The Tide went on to score 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, pulling away for a commanding 35-point victory. Thomas finished the game with 22 carries for 244 yards and three touchdowns, placing him second overall among season rushing leaders in Mississippi with 3,374 yards and 46 touchdowns. He is averaging 240 yards per game and 12.5 yards per carry.
Despite the season-ending loss, Pierson commended his team for an incredibly successful year, saying it would be a shame to overlook everything the team accomplished because of one game.
“I think the program has been elevated,” Pierson said. “The sad part is we were 13-0 and did a lot of great things, but if you don’t win the last one, it’s a bitter end. How can you not be pleased with the effort and everything they accomplished all year? You have to be. But ultimately, there’s only one team that gets the rings and walks away happy.”
Picayune will face West Point at M.M. Roberts Stadium on Saturday night at 7 for the Class 5A state championship.