STARKVILLE — Make that 25 straight victories for Hollandale Simmons. Make that two straight State Class 1A championships.
Make that also: By the hardest.
The Simmons Blue Devils outlasted the Lumberton Panthers 30-26 Friday morning and afternoon in a thrilling championship game played at Scott Field.
“It took everything we had,” said Simmons coach Tavares Johnson, tears rolling down his face. “Our guys go both ways. They are just exhausted. They are all heart and guts.”
And, said Johnson, they had some help from above. The Blue Devils were inspired by the late Detavian Reynolds, who died in October at the age of 17. Johnson had been the starting center on Simmons’ 2014 team and was expected to be one of the leaders on last year’s state title team. He was disagnosed with brain cancer in 2014.
“He fought it and fought it,” Johnson said. “When we visited him last at St. Jude’s, he asked the team to just win one more state championship for him. That’s what we did today.
“He was out there with us. It was like he was sitting on my shoulder the whole day.”
Lumberton outgained the champions 320 yards to 244 but two first quarter pass interceptions led to two Simmons touchdowns and eventually a 22-6 lead. Lumberton was fighting from behind the rest of the way.
“Lumberton has a great team and we knew that,” Johnson said. “They won 12 games this season. They are really talented up front. We knew that.”
Marquez Pam led the Blue Devils with 91 yards rushing on 21 carries. Pam had touchdown runs of one and four yards. Chandler Robinson completed six of 11 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown on a 19-yarder to Amos Robinson.
Lumberton was led by Rodraqus Coleman, who carried 22 times for 114 yards and also caught three passes for 39 yards.
Hollandale Simmons had only two seniors in its lineup and will be a favorite to make it three straight state championships.
“We’ll give them two weeks off and then we’ll get back to work,” Johnson said. “We work hard. The Blue Devils are blue collar.”
Look for Rick Cleveland’s column on the Pearl-Clinton 6A State Championship game later tonight.