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Water Valley defeats North Panola for first state title berth in 28 years

SARDIS — Water Valley’s season has been historic and it will last for one final game. For the first time in 28 years the Blue Devils will play for a state championship after defeating North Panola 43-28 in the MHSAA Class 3A North Half title game at North Panola High School on Friday.

The Blue Devils (13-2) will play Seminary for the MHSAA Class 3A state championship at Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg on Friday at 11 a.m.

Four weeks ago North Panola (11-2) dominated the second half of their Region 2-3A championship game against the Blue Devils on the same field. This time it was the Blue Devils’ turn, outscoring the Cougars 33-16 the final two quarters.

The turning point of the game came when Bud Tolbert picked off an errant pass from North Panola quarterback K.J. Jefferson in the third quarter. The Cougars had just scored their previous possession to go up 20-16 at the time. After Tolbert’s pick the Blue Devils rattled off 21 unanswered points.

“It’s a game of momentum. Two good teams, it happens like that,” Water Valley head coach Brad Embry said. “(North Panola) is a great football team and that’s how the game goes. It was back and forth and one time they got us and this time we got them. I’m so proud of the guys.”

After being held to 19 points in their last contest against the North Panola defense, the Blue Devils managed to find success on the ground and through the air all four quarters on Friday. Quarterback Jacob Truss finished with three touchdown passes and ran for another.

Martavious Rockett ran for a 43-yard touchdown and running back Tay Rucker sealed the game with a 23-yard touchdown run with 59 seconds remaining.

“(Truss) is just learning to play quarterback,” Embry said. “He just came and we didn’t know what he was and this year he missed a lot of time in the summer with an injury in baseball and he’s been off and on. Tonight in these conditions, Truss is more of a mudder.”

Jefferson threw for three touchdowns and left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury to his left leg after sliding out of bounds.