If East Central and St. Stanislaus are to work their way into the Class 4A South State semifinals, they’ll have to win on the road Friday night.
East Central (8-4) makes the 160-mile trip to Florence (10-2) while St. Stanislaus (10-1) has a healthy road trip of its own to Mendenhall (7-5). Poplarville (9-1) is at home for a second consecutive week with Quitman (6-6) serving as the opponent.
A year ago, there were three Coast teams in the 4A South State semifinals – Moss Point, St. Stanislaus and Vancleave.
St. Stanislaus and Poplarville are both heavy favorites to advance while East Central appears capable of putting a scare into Florence, which has won six consecutive games and the Region 4-6A region title. If East Central holds onto the ball and junior running back Tony Brown has another big game, the Hornets have a good shot at facing the winner of West Lauderdale-Purvis in the South State semifinals.
If Poplarville and St. Stanislaus both win as expected, we’ll get the long-awaited battle between the two teams in the other semifinal.
After an 11-3 performance a week ago, let’s get to the playoff picks.
St. Stanislaus 42, Mendenhall 21: Mendenhall picked up a first-round win at McComb last week, but it’s hard to see the Tigers keeping with the Rockachaws’ potent offense. I expect Coast teams to continue to their run of success in the 4A playoffs from the last three seasons.
Poplarville 49, Quitman 17: The Hornets have dominated 4A competition this season and that likely won’t come to an end Friday night. Poplarville can be considered on par with St. Stanislaus as a favorite to win 4A in South State.
East Central 35, Florence 28: This is where East Central’s difficult non-region schedule could come into play. The Hornets are the more battle-tested team, putting them in position to advance into the third round.
Pearl 35, Biloxi 17: Pearl (8-3) is one of the hotter teams in the state with six consecutive wins, including a 35-7 beat down of Brandon last week. Biloxi (6-5) turned it over too much against Gulfport last week. If that trend continues, the Indians don’t have much of a chance on the road.
Brandon 31, Gulfport 14: Brandon (9-3) still has to be stinging after getting thumped by rival Pearl last week. Expect Brandon to come out firing against the Admirals Friday.
D’Iberville 28, Petal 20: The Warriors are a team built for the postseason as long as they can limit the turnovers. Head coach Eric Collins had some very successful playoff teams at Pearl River Central.
Meridian 31, George County 24: Meridian (9-3) is a very experienced postseason team while George County (7-4) is in the playoffs for the first time since 2010. I expect that experience to pay off on the road for Meridian.
Wayne County 21, Pascagoula 10: The War Eagles have won six of their last seven games with the loss coming last week in a 41-7 thumping by Laurel in Waynesboro. Pascagoula received 150 yards rushing from both Javarous Walker and Reginald Hunter last week. The Panthers will need more of that to have a shot on the road in the first round of the 5A playoffs.
Picayune 42, Wingfield 21: The Maroon Tide (10-1) is capable of big things in the 5A playoffs this year. I don’t see Wingfield pushing Picayune much Friday night.
Stone High 35, Laurel 31: This is my upset special for Friday night. Stone High runs the type of offense that can allow the Tomcats to hold onto the ball for much of the night. If Stone holds onto the ball, it can pull off the shocker against another talented Laurel squad.
Resurrection Catholic 31, Noxapater 20: RCS (9-2) begins its pursuit of a second consecutive trip to the 1A state title game with a home game in Pascagoula. With five wins in its last five games, Noxapater (7-5) is no slouch.
Tallulah (La.) 42, Christian Collegiate 24: CCA has to make the road trip and Tallulah is 10-0.