Photo/James Pugh

Friday night two 5A heavyweights met Between the Bricks in Laurel for a good old-fashioned playoff slugfest. One hundred and fourteen plays later, totaling a combined 673 yards and 63 points, Picayune walked off a soggy field with a 41-22 victory.

The boggy playing conditions, complete with sand caked along the sidelines in an effort to help soak up some of the remnants of Jones County’s recent heavy rainfall, fit right into the Maroon Tide’s game plan. Picayune likes to run, and, boy, did they run it Friday . . . to the tune of 399 yards.

The visitors only attempted one pass, which was incomplete, but they just kept lining up and pounding it against a Tornado defense that fought hard but just couldn’t find enough key stops in critical situations.

Picayune knocked the first zeroes off the scoreboard with 5:19 left in the opening quarter when fullback Kade Turnage slipped into the end zone from five yards out. Laurel knotted the score at 7-7 when QB Xavier Evans rambled 42 yards on a third-and-nine keeper.

The Maroon Tide expanded their lead to 20-7 at the half on the strength of a 14-play, 75-yard drive culminated by a one-yard plunge by Jakail Myers and a “pick six” that came with just over five minutes until intermission.

Laurel got great field position on their second possession of the third quarter when a short punt by the visitors landed at the Picayune 43. Two plays later, however, Juvonta Raymond grabbed the second interception of the night for the Maroon Tide. On the next play, on a first down from their own 47, tailback Jortin Raine slashed through the Laurel defense to the Laurel three-yard-line. Two plays later, from the two, Myers did the honors, pushing the Picayune advantage to 27-7.

Laurel responded, using a 47-yard catch-and-run from Evans to running back Zias Perryman, on third-and-28, to narrow the deficit to 27-14 with 1:34 left in the third quarter.

The Maroon Tide countered with a seven-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Turnage bulling his way through several Laurel defenders to cover the final 15 yards. The Tornadoes again sliced into the Picayune lead when Evans found senior receiver Jontarius Henderson in the left corner of the end zone from 31 yards away. Levi Walker trotted across the goal line for two points on the PAT to make the score 34-22 with just under six minutes to play.

Laurel attempted an onside kick but was flagged when the ball didn’t travel the required 10 yards. Their second attempt, after the penalty, did go the necessary distance, but fell into the wrong hands, as far as Laurel fans were concerned.

Picayune took possession at the Laurel 41 with 5:31 left in the game. Six plays later, Raine was sloshing in the muddy end zone again. Issac Brice’s PAT put the final point of the night on the scoreboard.

Laurel finishes their season at 8-4, while Picayune will host West Jones. The Mustangs stunned unbeaten Hattiesburg to make their way to the South State finals.