By Curtis Rockwell, Sports Editor
The Picayune Item
Preston Dedeaux ran for 377 yards and five touchdowns, including three scores in a decisive fourth quarter, as top-ranked Picayune remained unbeaten with a 69-42 win over visiting Brookhaven to open the Class 5A South State playoffs Friday night.
Dedeaux scored on runs of 14, 62 and 7-yards in a six minute span of the final frame to help erase a 14-point deficit as the Maroon Tide ended the game with 41 unanswered points.
Picayune, the number 21 team in the nation according to USA Today, is now 11-0 and will travel to Pascagoula for the South State semifinals Friday. Pascagoula beat West Jones 38-14.
"We came out with two turnovers to start the second half, and they scored twice and to be honest I didn't feel real good about things," Picayune head coach Dodd Lee, whose team has now won 18 straight games, said. "But these kids are unbelievable. They never blinked. We got some stops and then scored on every possession after that. They showed a lot of character."
Brookhaven quarterback Zach Smith three five scoring passes on the night, including two early in the third period after a pair of Picayune fumbles, to give the Panthers a 42-28 lead.
But Picayune would score on its last six possessions of the game, and the Maroon Tide defense never allowed another first down.
After the Panthers took the 14-point lead, Maroon Tide quarterback Ben Hickman threw a nine yard scoring strike to tight end Tanner Bryan to cut the deficit in half and then Dedeaux ended three straight scoring drives with touchdown runs.
"It was a team effort," Dedeaux said. "I was proud of our crowd, they kept us in the game. And we as a team just fed off of that. We just came together and everybody did their job when we had to have it."
The teams were tied at 28-28 at halftime, as Dedeaux ran for touchdowns on 36 and 15-yard runs. Hickman also scored on a 3-yard bootleg, and Daveon Greene scored on a 4-yard run for the Tide.
Smith's passing kept the Maroon Tide off balance for most of the first three quarters.
"They were pretty rough on us, and they took advantage of some match-up problems in the first half," Lee said. "I was proud of the kids the way they fought back though. They showed great confidence and poise."
After Dedeaux's three scoring runs put Picayune ahead 56-42, Greene added a 22-yard scoring run and Desmond Taylor finished the comeback with a 16-yard touchdown run.
Greene finished with 171 yards rushing in the win. Tony Washington and Sam Hickman recovered fumbles for Picayune, and Deandre Anderson picked off a pass as well.