Photo/James Pugh

Seminary came up just short in their comeback attempt against Water Valley in Friday’s Class 3A State Championship at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium. The Bulldogs found their groove in the second half and trimmed a 22-point deficit to six in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. 

Facing a third down and five with less than a minute to play, the Blue Devils (14-2) picked up a first down that allowed them to run the clock out and capture their second state championship in school history with a 34-28 win. 

Once down 28-6 in the third quarter, Seminary fought back and ended the game on a 22-6 scoring run to remain in contention. 

“They [Water Valley] got ahead, and our guys kept fighting back,” Seminary coach Brian Rials said. “I’m proud of the effort. Just not enough time. That’s kinda the way we’ve done it all year, get behind and try to come from behind. We made a run at it and just ran out of time there. Hats off to them [Water Valley], they did a great job.”

The loss snapped Seminary’s 11-game winning streak, and the Bulldogs finish their storybook 2018 season with a 12-4 record having captured both Region 8-3A and Class 3A South State titles. Rials says he’ll remember this group for their fight in adverse situations. 

“I told the other guys, Nathan [Pickering] is gonna play Division I football, and the rest of these are solid high school football players, and here we are with a chance to play for it all,” Rials said. “I’m just proud of these guys. Hate it for these seniors, but I’m proud of their leadership. And we got some good ones coming back next year, so maybe we’ll try it again.”

Leading into Friday’s game, Rials feared that Water Valley wide receiver Bud Tolbert, who stands at 6-foot-3, could present matchup problems for his Bulldogs. That was case as Tolbert reeled in four catches and four touchdowns for the Blue Devils. His fourth put Water Valley up 34-12 with 2:20 left in the third quarter and just three minutes after Seminary found the end zone on a Jeff Miller-to-Poundarius Youngblood touchdown connection. 

Youngblood scored again in the fourth on a 11-yard run, and teammate Joseph Owens followed with a 15-yard score to cut Water Valley’s lead to 34-28. Owens, Youngblood and Jordan Barrett combined to rush for 137 and three touchdowns on 29 carries, while starter Marquis Crosby finished with a game-high 169 yards. 

“Marquis has had a big year, and they did some things to try to take him away,” Rials said. “So we had some other guys step up and make some big plays for us. They did a good job scheming us.”

After Owens’ score, Seminary attempted an onside kick, but Water Valley recovered and managed to drain the remainder of the fourth quarter clock following a nine-yard, first down run from quarterback Jacob Truss. 

“We finally got it going, but it was a little too late,” Rials said. “I’m still proud of my guys, coaches and this great community that showed up today. We appreciate all the support we’ve had all year.”

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