While the Class 5A playoffs don’t begin until Nov. 11, there will be a postseason atmosphere when Picayune hosts Pascagoula Friday night.
The No. 2 Maroon Tide and No. 7 Panthers meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Lee-Triplett Stadium in a game that will likely put the loser on the road for the first round of the playoffs and the winner probably in a first-round home game.
“They’re all big, but this time of the year is bigger,” Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims said. “Our playoffs start Friday night. We’re going to Picayune, which is one of the toughest trips any team can make.”
Picayune (8-1, 4-1) and Pascagoula (5-4, 4-1) are part of a four-way tie atop Region 4-5A along with Stone High (7-2, 4-1) and Hattiesburg (7-3, 4-1).
After taking its first loss of the season 38-31 to Stone High on Oct. 14, Picayune responded well last week with a 62-21 victory at Long Beach.
Picayune coach Dodd Lee hopes the loss to Stone High will serve to refocus his team for a title run.
“Sometimes things like that can be a blessing in disguise,” he said.
Junior running back Shaun Anderson was a big-play threat for the Maroon Tide at Long Beach, running nine times for 294 yards and four touchdowns.
Anderson filled in well for an injured Josh Littles, who is set to return for Friday night’s contest. Littles, a senior, has been sidelined for the last six quarters after getting injured midway through the Stone High contest.
When Littles, Anderson and junior David Baker are all getting their touches at running back, it creates headaches for the opponent.
“We have enough weapons (to get by without Littles), but Josh gives us a little extra,” Lee said. “He can take it all the way in one play and so can Anderson.”
Littles has 180 carries for 1,552 yards and 18 touchdowns and Anderson has 58 rushes for 692 yards and seven scores.
After struggling through a 5-7 season in 2015, the Picayune football program is back in a big way.
Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims has been impressed by what he’s seen out of the Maroon Tide on game film.
“They’re just as good, if not better, in many ways,” Sims said while comparing this year’s Picayune team to past seasons. “They do a heck of a job. They have the most seasoned coach in the state’s southern six counties. Every kid in pee wee and middle school is running what they run – the old Calvin Triplett Wing-T.”
While Picayune will spread the carries around, Pascagoula has increasingly relied on senior running back Reginald Hunter in recent weeks. The top prospect has 111 carries for 843 yards and 10 touchdowns this season despite missing significant time early in the season due to an injury.
Lee hopes for a disciplined approach from his defense, which is gradually showing improvement.
“It’s really just playing gap technique and everybody else has to do their job,” Lee said. “We’re not going into the game saying we have to stop this or stop that. They can throw the ball on any down. They throw the ball off zone read. We have to be mature in our effort. Everybody has to do their job like they say in New England.”
Pascagoula has won three of its last five games against Picayune since the Maroon Tide swept the Panthers in a pair of games in 2011.
Who: Pascagoula vs. Picayune
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Radio: 104.9 FM
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