A pair of Class 5A teams in South Mississippi carry heavy hearts into the postseason.
Pearl River Central hosts Natchez at 7 p.m. Friday while Pascagoula prepares to take on Brookhaven at the same time at War Memorial Stadium in Pascagoula
Both teams will have a yard line marked off in honor of a fallen teammate.
For PRC, the 15 yard line is painted pink in honor of Shane Smith, a sophomore linebacker who died on July 24 in an automobile accident.
At Pascagoula, the 9 yard line will be painted red Friday in memory of Keith Joseph Jr., a former star for the Panthers and a freshman defensive end at Mississippi State, who died on Nov. 6 along with his father in an automobile accident near Leakesville.
Helmets for the Pascagoula football team will feature an "MJ" decal in honor of the two men and the same initials will be painted in the end zone at Pascagoula. Keith Joseph Sr. was also a star player for for the Panthers and suited up for Mississippi State from 1989-92.
The Pascagoula football team will walk to Union Baptist Church in Pascagoula at 11:30 a.m. Friday to meet with the Joseph family.
"We're going to walk over as a team and pay our respects," Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims said.
PRC is still grieving the loss of Smith, but the pain for Pascagoula is still extremely fresh.
Sims, his staff and counselors at the school have done their best to help members of the football team grieve this week.
"Everybody is grieving in their own way," Sims said. "What we've done is try to keep things as normal as we can in this situation."
Sims said Thursday that preparations for Friday's game have gone as well as he could have expected.
"We've been able to keep our emotions in check," Sims said. "Getting out and practicing is a cathartic thing. Being able to go out and play ball has been a kind of a release."
Brookhaven, which eliminated Pascagoula in the first round of the playoffs in 2013, enters the game with a 4-7 record.
Pascagoula junior quarterback Granlund Torjusen is uncertain for Friday's game with an injury.
Picayune (5-6) makes the difficult trip to Wayne County (8-3) after losing its final three games of the regular season. Wayne County's three losses have all come to tough competition - Oak Grove, Archbishop Rummel out of New Orleans and Laurel.
No. 2 Pearl River Central enters the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in all of Class 5A with eight consecutive victories. The Blue Devils battle a Natchez team that stands at 4-6.
"We're going to have to play good football to beat them," PRC coach Eric Collins said. "They can make plays and these are all good teams in the playoffs. I can tell you they have good athletes and they're extremely big."
The Blue Devils have been outstanding on defense lately, holding opponents to an average off 11.4 points a game over the last five contests.
During that stretch, Collins believes his team has played its best football.
"We really got off to a slow start and got better as the season went on," Collins said. "We've been playing our best football the last five games of the year. As a coach, that's something you want to happen."
PRC features three rushers with at least 1,000 yards rushing this season - senior Hunter Holifield, junior Michael Tatman and senior Christian Roberts.