CORINTH — This is becoming a painful refrain for the Greenwood Bulldogs.
For the fourth time in six years, Greenwood saw its season end one win shy of the state championship game.
But this was supposed to be the year the Bulldogs went all the way after never trailing in their first 13 games. However, Corinth had a different idea.
The Warriors rolled up 302 yards on the ground in a 31-14 victory here Friday night in the MHSAA North 4A finals.
“I didn’t see that coming,” said a dejected Clinton Gatewood, in his 10th season as head coach at GHS. “I hate we waited to play our worst game of the year on the biggest stage. I feel like I let my guys down.”
The Bulldogs may have never trailed en route to a 13-0 mark but on this night they never led. Corinth took control early and staved off a Greenwood comeback attempt in the second half. But in the end, Greenwood made way too many mistakes and was doomed by four turnovers.
“It’s just real disappointing to end such a great run like this. I hurt for all these guys, especially these seniors,” Gatewood added.
“All I can say is that we will work our tails off to finally get over this hump next season. Our guys just have to keep believing and keep grinding.”
On the road for the first time in the postseason and trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, the Bulldogs made a run to get within three, at 17-14, but the Warriors were able to throttle down the high flying air attack while grinding out two more touchdowns, including the final nail in the Dogs’ coffin on a one-yard run by Nazarius Jones.
“Wow. What a feeling,” said Corinth coach Todd Lowery, whose team lost 40-38 last year in the third round of the playoffs. “We have been about unfinished business since August.
“That’s a mighty fine team we just beat. Hats off to those guys for a great season.”
DeAndre Smith completed 7 of 14 passes for 85 yards and had both of Greenwood’s touchdown with a one-yarder and another from five yards out. He also had 115 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Jamarion Addison added 120 yards on the ground on 15 attempts. Kobe Chambers led all GHS receivers with six grabs for 81 yards.
Defensively, William Stewart led the way with 12 tackles, and Davin Anderson added 10 stops and a fumble recovery.
Omar Emmons chipped in with eight stops, three pass breakups and one pick.
The Warriors advance to face Poplarville at 11 a.m. next Saturday in the championship game in Hattiesburg at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Poplarville beat Lawrence County 38-14 Friday in the South 4A title contest.
The game got off to a rough start for the Bulldogs as they went three and out to open the first half, failing to take advantage of good field position after recovering a surprise onside kick.
Then Corinth went 81 yards mighty quick as D.T. Sheffield capped it with a one-yard sneak to make it 7-0 with 8:19 left in the first. The speedy Sheffield sparked it with a 53-yard scramble.
Before the end of the first, Sheffield got the Bulldogs again, this time hooking up with Cayden Betts for a 29-yard touchdown toss.
Greenwood finally got rolling late in the first when they went to the ground attack led by Addison. The senior running back did the hard work on a touchdown drive to make it 14-7. Smith finished it off with a three-yard run.
GHS came right back with its own onside kick recovery, taking over at midfield. But the Dogs were held in check by the Warriors’ defense and wound up punting it away.
It looked like Corinth might go up 21-7 late in the second with the ball inside the GHS 10, but Emmons recovered a fumble. But Smith threw a pick inside the Bulldog 20 to give the Warriors the ball back.
The defense then held Corinth to a field goal from 23 yards out to give the home team a 17-7 advantage with 1:05 to play in the opening half.
That’s where things remained at the half.
Before last year’s shootout, these two teams had not met since 1971. They faced off 23 straight times (1949-71), with GHS now leading the series 20-2-3.
Greenwood’s last appearance in the state championship game was in 1988 as they lost to Warren Central. The previous year, the Bulldogs fell to Pascagoula.