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Lawrence County Cougars one game away from state championship

The Lawrence County Cougars (9-5) hope to keep their postseason magic going Friday night when they head to Poplarville to take on the Hornets (8-5) at 7 p.m. in the MHSAA 4A South State championship.

Coach Jesse Anderson and his LC Cougars are making the third South State appearance in school history. The school won their lone state title in 1999 under the leadership of coach Danny Adams. In 2015 the Cougars made it to the South State again for coach Jaymie Palmer before being defeated by St. Stanislaus.

Poplarville is playing in the South State title game for the fourth straight year. Last season the Hornets lost 25-20 to Louisville High in the 4A title game. In 2017 they were unbeaten before losing to East Central in South State and in 2016 they lost to Lafayette County in the title game.

Coach Jay Beech has been leading PHS since 2014. In 2010 Poplarville went 0-10 and in 2012 Lawrence County had a 1-10 campaign as both programs have fought to establish themselves over the following years.

Poplarville is no stranger to LCHS as the two team were both members of Region 7-4A for the previous two seasons.

Last season in Poplarville the Hornets won 48-14 and in 2017 PHS won 58-20 in Monticello.

Poplarville didn’t win their region this year as they were beaten 25-7 by Greene County, the same Greene County that LC eliminated 17-14 two weeks ago.

The Hornets also have losses to larger competition such as 5A Picayune (53-15), 6A D’Iberville (42-22), 5A Laurel (21-14) and 5A Mandeville of Louisiana (65-35).

In its playoff opener, Poplarville beat St. Stanislaus 35-14 before squeaking past North Pike 23-20 on the road. Last week the Hornets pulled one of the biggest upsets in the state by defeating previously unbeaten South Pike 31-20.

Like Lawrence County, Poplarville is a team that will keep the ball on the ground. The Hornets come in averaging 312 yards rushing per game. They have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in junior Gregory Swann (1,076 yards and 10 scores) and senior Chase Shears (1,022 yards and 11 TDs).

LC led 7-0 early at home last season against PHS before Shears took over. He rushed 11 times for 192 yards and three scores while averaging 18 yards per carry in the win.

Against South Pike it was senior Zac Owens who did the damage for the Hornets as he pounded out 142 yards and four scores on 23 carries.

In a 13-7 overtime win last week at Newton County Anderson and his team saw senior running back Kylan Cooper carry 18 times for 139 yards and one score. Perez Tyler punched in the game winning score in overtime for the Cougars.

Senior defensive end Stefan Pierce led LCHS with 13 tackles while senior Kendrick Madison added 11 stops. Pierce also made two tackles and blocked a field goal attempt. Senior Zavian Bridges broke up four passes.

The winner of the South State game qualifies for the MHSAA 4A state championship game on Saturday one week later, Dec. 7. That game will take place in M. M. Roberts Stadium on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.

The North State championship Friday night features Corinth (12-1) hosting Greenwood (13-0).