By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
The Picayune Item
Last season, Picayune had to rally from a 16-point deficit in the final four minutes of the game to slip by Gautier 38-31.
Friday night, it didn't take near that long for the Maroon Tide to put the Gators away.
Daveon Greene scored three touchdowns and Doug Cross ran for 116 yards and scored as well as top-ranked Picayune swamped Gautier 63-14 before a sparse crowd at Maroon Tide Stadium.
With the win, the defending Class 5A state champions remain unbeaten at 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Region 4-5A play, and the Gators fall to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in league play.
Picayune played without leading rusher Preston Dedeaux, who separated his shoulder in practice earlier in the week.
"I thought it was a big game for us, coming off last week's game (a 21-20 win over arch-rival Pearl River Central) and then losing Preston," veteran Maroon Tide head coach Dodd Lee said. "It was a great effort by our kids. We got off to a good start and that was a key."
The Maroon Tide jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and was never threatened by the Gators. And despite the absence of Dedeaux, Picayune's defense was relentless in its best outing of the season as the unit recorded seven sacks and forced three turnovers.
"By far, it was our best defensive performance of the year," Lee added. "I think we have a good defense, and we hopefully are continuing to get better."
Greene scored all three times he touched the ball, all on wingback traps. His 20-yard touchdown run mid-way through the first period gave Picayune a lead it would never relinquish.
He also scored on runs of 8 and 54 yards.
Cross, who also starts at defensive end, doubled at tailback filling in for Dedeaux and scored on an 11-yard run late in the first period. Picayune quarterback Ben Hickman scored on a 1-yard keeper in the second stanza, and Greene added his 8-yard jaunt to make it 28-7 at halftime.
Greene's 54-yard scoring scamper made it 35-7, and then Kardarius cross scored on a 10 yard run and also hauled in a 6-yard scoring pass from Hickman to make it 49-7 early in the fourth frame.
Xavier Harrellson closed out the scoring in this romp for Picayune with scoring runs from 25 and 63 yards in the final period.
Gautier quarterback Xavien Johnson accounted for both Gator scores, as he kept on a 1-yard sneak in the second period and then threw a 54 yard touchdown pass to Adonnis Harris late in the game.
Lee said that Dedeaux is not expected to play in Thursday's big showdown with fellow unbeaten Pascagoula, matching the top two Class 5A teams in the state on regional television.
"Our goal is to win the state, not win the district," Lee added. "We need him more later in the year than next week" Chance Kellar had a fumble recovery for Picayune, and JaCorea Poole had a fumble recovery as well. Both came deep in Gautier territory and set up scores by the Maroon Tide.