Dallas Payne (No. 11) has 69 catches this fall for 1,107 yards and 17 TDs.

St. Stanislaus’ head football coach Nathan Encrapera isn’t fooled by his opponent’s record going into Friday’s 4A playoff opener.

The Rock-A-Chaws (6-4) travel to Poplarville for a 7 p.m. kickoff, and Encrapera knows the Hornets’ 5-5 record isn’t an indication of weakness.

“We’ll have to play physical football to have a good chance against them,” he said. “They’re 5-5 this year but that’s not indicative of just how good they are. We’ll have to play our most physical game of the season. They have some really tough lineman.”

To say Poplarville has had success in the state football playoffs in recent years is putting it lightly. It has made its way at least to the South state championship game for the past three consecutive years.

The Hornets lost to Louisville 25-20 last year in the 4A championship game. In 2017, East Central beat them in the South title game. In ’16, they lost to Lafayette in the state title game.

And in 2015, you ask? It was St. Stanislaus that sent Poplarville packing in the second round of the tournament by a 33-21 score.

“They run a Wing-T offense and do a great job at controlling the tempo of the game,” Encrapera said. “Their coach, Jay Beech, does a really good job in play calling. He tends to figure out quickly what will work for them in a game.”

St. Stanislaus is expected to again count on its passing attack if they are to knock off the Hornets. SSC quarterback Max Favre has completed 178 of 272 passes for 2,517 yards this season. He has 33 TD passes and eight interceptions.

Two of Favre’s favorite targets have been Dallas Payne and Bradley Darby. Payne has 69 catches for 1,107 yards and 17 TDs, while Darby has 47 receptions for 763 yards and eight scores.

When SSC turns to its ground game, Jaxson Favre (25 carries, 139 yards) and Davien Legarde (24 carries, 150 yards) will be counted on help the Rock-A-Chaws’ offense, which is averaging 32 points per game this season

Defensively, Trustin Northington has 79 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries this season. Teammate Blake Bilich has added 68 tackles.

For Poplarville, two running backs have help pace its primarily run-first attack. In fact, the Hornets’ leading receiver has only four catches on the season.

Gregory Swann has 113 carries for 914 yards and nine touchdowns. Teammate Chase Shears has run the ball 53 times for 758 yards and 10 TDs.

On defense, Zac Owen leads Poplarville with a team-high 79 tackles.

One of Encrapera’s biggest concerns on Friday will be if it’s a close game down the stretch.

SSC has played four contests this fall that finished as one-score games – with the Rock-A-Chaws losing three of them.

“We had three, one-possession games that we lost,” he said. “We haven’t done well in some of the close ones. We just have to find a way to finish and win if its comes down to it late in the fourth quarter.”

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