There is more at stake when Poplarville invades A.L. May Memorial Stadium Friday than just an important District 8-4A game.
Members of the Stone High football team would just like to be able to say they were on the team that beat the Hornets for the first time since 2008.
While the teams have not been district rivals in all that time, the rivalry has been intense, with Poplarville winning the last six meetings between the schools.
While the Tomcats have come close, losing by one point in overtime in 2014 and three in 2016, the Hornets have dominated, winning those six games by an average score of 37-22.
“They’re just a good football team,” said Stone coach John Feaster. “They have a winning tradition and that fact is instilled in them from the time they’re playing pee-wee football.”
This could be a good year for the Tomcats to take advantage; the Hornets are 2-4 overall and 1-0 in District 8-4A.
That’s a bit deceptive, though, as they’ve played a tough non-conference schedule, losing to the likes of Laurel, Mandeville and D’Iberville.
Stone will likely have to figure a way to stop the Hornets’ 5-10, 215-pound senior tailback Chase Shears.
Shears has played sparingly, only appearing in three of the Hornet’s six games.
In those three games, though, he has gained 401 yards on 24 carries, a 16.7 yards-per-carry average.
He’s also scored six touchdowns.
Junior Gregory Swann has made up for Shears’ absence, gaining 398 yards on 55 carries.
While trying to stop the run, the Tomcats [1-4, 0-1] will also have to find a way to penetrate the Hornets’ defensive line.
“They’re defensive line is impressive,” Feaster said. “Our running backs are going to have to go the right way and hit the holes our linemen are able to open.”
Gametime is 7 p.m.