SBLive is previewing all six MHSAA Football State Championship games ahead of Friday’s and Saturday’s games at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.
The MHSAA Class 1A Football Championship game features a matchup between two storied programs that have never met on a football field.
Simmons (13-0) is back on top in the North after a three-year hiatus from the state championship and looking to win the school’s fourth title in the playoff era and first since 2017.
It’s hard to believe that their opponent, Bay Springs (11-1) has never won a state championship, but it’s true: The Bulldogs have 50 winning seasons in their 93-year history and claim five region titles — including in 2015, 2016 and 2021 — but they’ve never won it all.
They have a chance to change all that Friday, but they’ll have to beat their toughest opponent to date to do it.
Simmons comes in riding a 13-0 winning streak and having outscored its opponents 685-56. That run includes eight shutouts, including a 66-0 win over Okolona in the opening round of the playoffs and a 48-0 win over Tupelo Christian in the North State Championship last week.
Tailback Vontrez Rush, recently voted 1A Mr. Football for 2021, is the catalyst offensively. He’s rushed for approximately one million yards this season
We’re going to need a bigger thesaurus to keep describing just how dominant the Blue Devils have been, but coach Tavares Johnson doesn’t have to search too hard for a word to describe his team.
“We’re blessed,” Johnson said. “We wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in if we didn’t have those type of guys who can compete. I tell the kids all the time that, at this level, the team that executes the game plan and plays with the most passion wins. Well, they have executed our game plan and played with intensity all year.”
Outside of Rush, the Blue Devils have a capable quarterback in DeVontae Rush, a good secondary back in Jermaine Edwards and a complimentary receiving corp led by sophomore Chartavian Bethany and junior Charles Mallard.
The real strength of the offense, though, is up front. Tymon Wells (6-foot-1, 265), Darik Bolton (6-2, 270) and Antoine Washington (6-2, 235) lead a group that has paved the way for the Blue Devils’ success.
“We’ve got good size for a 1A team, for sure,” Johnson said. “They’ve done what we’ve asked them to do on a play-to-play basis, game after game and practice after practice. They’ve done a great job for us so far, and we’re hoping they can help finish the job Friday.”
That Blue Devil offense will face a Bay Springs defense that has been equally dominant, allowing just 64 points in 12 games and holding 10 opponents to single digits.
The Bulldogs’ lone loss came against 2A foe Scott Central way back on Sept. 17. The Rebels are still unbeaten and will play for the 2A Championship Saturday. The Bulldogs have since wrecked every team they have played, with the exception of Taylorsville, who they beat 14-12 after a knock-down, drag-out affair on Oct. 29.
“I think that Scott Central game and that Taylorsville game helped make us the team we are today,” Bay Springs coach Dan Brady said. “We were in the Scott Central game until they scored late to pull away, and we had to play very well defensively late in that second game to beat Taylorsville, so we know what it’s like to be on both sides of a close game.”
The Bulldogs are another team that likes to run the football. Juniors Tyrick Jones and Anthony Ross have combined to run for 2,242 yards and 26 touchdowns.
They are also pretty solid up front, with guys like Cartize Booth (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), Tony Johnson (6-3, 230) and Kameron Beavers (6-3, 325) punching holes on offense and closing gaps on defense.
“When I go to make the schedule, there are not a lot of people out there who want to play Bay Springs because of the type of athletes we have,” Brady said. “I don’t get to make it where we have guaranteed wins, but I think the tougher schedule helps us tremendously in the playoffs.”