The better team won.
West Jones head coach Scott Pierson repeated the phrase several times - or something like it - following his team's 49-14 loss to Picayune in the MHSAA Class 5A South State Championship Friday night in Soso.
"Picayune was better than us tonight,” said Pierson. “I wish I could stand here and tell you one or two reasons why we lost, but I can't. We got out-coached, out-played, and out-executed. Picayune came here with a single-minded purpose, and they did what they did.
"You hate to lose, but if you're going to lose, you want to lose like that. Those guys were a class act, and they did a great job tonight."
Picayune denied West Jones the chance at back-to-back trips to M. M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, MS, for the 5A title game with its dynamic run game and select pass plays.
Pierson mentioned the rare pass plays that set Picayune up in prime scoring opportunities.
"They had to two big pass plays early, and outside of that, they didn't complete another big [pass play]," said Pierson.
Holding a one-score lead, 14-7, in the final seconds of the first quarter, Picayune converted on fourth and five from the Mustangs 26-yard line with a 25-yard pass from junior quarterback Isaac Hickman to senior receiver Jalen Hall. Jakail Myers scored on the next play to begin the second quarter and a three-score lead.
“They wore us down,” added Pierson, “not because we weren’t conditioned and ready to go, but because they’re a good football team.”
The 20-minute halftime separated West Jones' two scores. A two-yard rush by junior running back, Kentrel Pruitt answered Picayune's opening touchdown drive. Late in the third quarter, West Jones cut Picayune's three-score lead to two on an 18-yard pass play from junior quarterback Alan Follis to junior Tajrick Randolph. The play came on a fourth and five conversion attempt.
West Jones ends the 2019 season, 13-1. The Mustangs finished the regular season unbeaten for the fifth time in school history - all during the current Pierson era.
"I think the program has been elevated. It was elevated last year," Pierson said. "The sad part is we were 13-0 [going into tonight] and did a lot of great things, but if you don't win the last one, it's bitter.
“But how can you not be pleased with our guys' effort and everything they accomplished all year. You have to be. But ultimately, only one [team] gets the ring, and we didn't get it done tonight. Picayune was just better than us. It's not something as a coach that I like to admit, but they were."
Stat leaders for West Jones:
Alan Follis - 14 of 30 for 149 yards and one touchdown.
Kentrel Pruitt - 12 carries for 68 yards and one touchdown.
Tajrick Randolph - four catches for 61 yards and one touchdown.