The running back-fullback duo of Josh Littles and Blake Merrifield powered Picayune to a 14-0 win over Pascagoula Friday night at Lee-Triplett Stadium.
Littles ran 26 times for 164 yards and a touchdown while Merrifield pounded the middle of the Pascagoula defense for 107 yards on 13 carries.
The win keeps Picayune (9-1, 5-1) in the hunt for a Region 4-5A title and a first-round playoff game. The Maroon Tide will travel to play rival Pearl River Central next week.
Pascagoula (5-5, 4-2) will play Gautier (4-6, 3-3) next week in a game that will determine the final playoff bid out of 4-5A.
Littles and Merrifield worked well off each other all night. When Littles had the ball, it was often Merrifield paving the way.
“He had a real good game,” Littles said of Merrifield. “That's my man. He blocks real good for me. He toted it when I didn't run.”
It was the first 100-yard game of the season for Merrifield, but he was more excited about some big blocks he put on the Pascagoula defense.
“That's about my favorite part. I like that,” Merrifield said with a smile.
Merrifield also received plenty of snaps on the Picayune defensive line.
Picayune head coach Dodd Lee didn't want to heap too much praise on his players with plenty of football left to be played.
“(Merrifield) had a big game, but I bet when you watch the film he can play better than that,” Lee said. “That's the attitude we're going to take the rest of the year.”
Littles missed six quarters of action with a bruised bone in his knee before returning to action Friday night.
“He was able to grind it out, but it didn't look like he was laying it all on the line,” Lee said.
Pascagoula was kept off the scoreboard, but managed to move the ball well at times on a stout Picayune defense. The Panthers twice had drives end at the Picayune 6, once on a failed fourth-down try and another on a turnover following a fumble on the quarterback-running back exchange.
“It all starts with me,” Pascagoula coach Lewis Sims said. “You've got to finish. I've got to do a better job of teaching our guys how to finish. Defensively, you hold Picayune to 14 points. That's a heck of a job by our defense. When you get inside the 10, you've got to score. We did it twice and didn't take advantage of it.
“Hats off to Picayune, they played a heck of a game.”
Picayune came out hot on offense on the game's first possession with an efficient six-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown run by Shaun Anderson.
Pascagoula appeared set to answer on the following drive, but senior running back Javarous Walker was hit in the backfield on fourth down at the Picayune 6 to preserve the 7-0 lead for the Maroon Tide.
Picayune finally got in the end zone again on a 17-yard run by Littles at the 2:17 mark of the third quarter to make it 14-0.
Pascagoula senior Reginald Hunter, who sat out the first quarter, finished with 12 carries for 119 yards. Walker ran 10 times for 53 yards.