Tallulah 52, Prairie View 20
TALLULAH — Tallulah Academy is headed to the MAIS 8-man state championship game for the third time in four years after rolling to a 52-20 semifinal victory over Prairie View.
State champs in 2015 and 2016, the top-seeded Trojans will play No. 2 Manchester (Miss.) on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the finals at Jackson (Miss.) Academy. Both teams are 12-0.
Prairie View finished its inaugural season in 8-man at 10-2, with both losses coming at the hands of its Division 3 rival. Tallulah won a hard-fought 54-46 decision over the Spartans in Bastrop in Week 3.
Tallulah took charge of Friday night's highly-anticipated semifinal matchup early on. Pick-6s by Josh Collins and Carter Sullivan staked the Trojans to a 28-6 second quarter lead, and the visiting Spartans never recovered.
With the Trojans facing third-and-goal from the nine just three plays into the contest, Prairie View's Mason King pounced on a fumble at the 13.
It was one of Tallulah's few mistakes.
Prairie View crossed into Tallulah territory behind passes of 19 and 24 yards from Luke Denman to Layton Woodard, but the drive soon stalled. Picking off a fourth down pass, the shifty Collins eluded multiple tacklers along the left sideline for a 64-yard touchdown return. Grahm Tweedle's 2-point pass from Collins upped the margin to 8-0.
Tallulah would never relinquish the lead.
Prairie View overcame a holding penalty on its second series as Denman's 40-yard sprint around the right edge narrowed the gap to 8-6.
Tallulah began to separate from there with 22 unanswered points.
Collins' 29-yard burst capped a four-play, 61-yard drive to extend the lead to 14-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, a diving Walker Sullivan alertly knocked the ball away on the scramble for a live ball and Paul Michael Machen made the recovery for the Trojans at the plus-34.
Tallulah twice converted on fourth down while navigating around three penalties on the eight-play drive. On fourth-and-10 from the 11, Collins found Tweedle over the middle for the touchdown to put the Trojans up 22-6.
Starting from their own 35, the Spartans advanced to the 19 on passes of 15 yards to Hunter Little and 30 yards to Woodard.
Sullivan then took an interception 83 yards the other way as the spread swelled to 28-6.
Denman's 17-yard run on the Spartans' final series of the half trimmed the deficit to 28-12.
Austin Carroll stopped a fourth-and-goal running play from the 5 on the final play half to give the Spartans a glimmer of hope going into the interval.
Unable to get untracked offensively, the Spartans managed only one first down on their first four series of the half.
Continuing to impose their will on the offensive side as well, the Trojans opened up an insurmountable 52-12 bulge. Collins scored on runs of 36 and 17 yards in the third quarter and Garrett Paris broke off runs of 66 and 20 yards in the final quarter to conclude the Tallulah scoring.
Cade Murphy's 52-yard touchdown dash on the final play of the game and Ross Powell's 2-point reception with no time left on the clock brought the final to 52-20.
Notes: Collins was incredible for the Trojans, once again, rushing for three touchdowns and passing for another to go with the pick-6. Led by Collins (17 carries, 223 yards, 3 TDs) and Paris (12-139-2), the Trojans amassed 374 yards on the ground. ... Woodard capped an outstanding season with a three-catch, 73-yard effort for the Spartans.