Gautier-Pascagoula has long been a heated rivalry, but not many of the contests between the two teams have meant as much as the one set to be played Friday night.
The winner earns a playoff bid. The loser is home for the postseason.
Pascagoula (5-5, 4-2) makes the short 8-mile trip to take on rival Gautier (4-6, 3-3) in the regular season finale at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“Any time you play your rival, there's a little extra excitement in the air,” Gautier coach Chris Peterson said. “To top it all off, the winner goes to the playoffs. It means a little extra.”
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The winner of Friday's game will travel to Friday night's Laurel-Wayne County winner in the first round of the Class 5A South State playoffs.
While there have been plenty of competitive games between the two schools, Pascagoula has largely dominated the rivalry in recent seasons. The last time Gautier beat Pascagoula in football was the 2009 season opener.
Gautier has some momentum headed into Friday's contest after winning two of its last three games with senior running back Deandre Torrey leading the way.
Torrey has 141 carries for 1,235 yards and 16 touchdowns this season and 19 scores total. He even threw for a touchdown in last week's 56-19 win at West Harrison.
The versatile Torrey sometimes lines up behind center at quarterback in a wildcat formation, giving sophomore starter Kameron Kincaid a break.
“He means a whole lot to (the offense),” Peterson said. “Everything starts up front with the offensive line. Paul Gainer and Justin Scott spearhead that unit.”
Pascagoula has had problems scoring points this season, registering its second scoreless game a week ago in a 14-0 loss to Picayune. The other shutout was in a 22-0 loss to D'Iberville on Sept. 2.
As a team, Pascagoula has averaged 18.9 points a game this season.
A season-ending injury to senior quarterback Granlund Torjusen has proven a significant blow to Pascagoula passing game.
Damon McLaurin and Hunter Collins split snaps at quarterback last week and head coach Lewis Sims said Thursday that he plans to go with the hot hand between the two seniors against Gautier.
“It's going to be whoever is executing the best is going to play,” Sims said. “Our theme this week is to have fun and enjoy the ride, enjoy each others company, enjoy your brothers. You have to take advantage or your opportunity. You're guaranteed one game. Let's go have fun.”
Pascagoula will again have to rely on its talented senior running back duo of Reginald Hunter and Javarous Walker.
Sims knows his offense will have to take a step forward Friday night against a Gautier team that's put together big offensive outbursts at times this season. The same Picayune team that shut out Pascagoula last week gave up 38 points to the Gators on Sept. 23.
“Your leaders have to step up and make plays in critical situations,” Sims said. “You depend on your team leaders to step up and make plays. When we execute, we're hard to stop. It's all about execution for us. It doesn't matter what you call, whether you run it or throw it. When your number is called, you have to perform. It's a maturity issue. It's been all year long.”
While Pascagoula took a step back last week on offense, Peterson believes his team is on the right trajectory.
“I we've think grown up a lot,” Peterson said. “We're not making as many mistakes. We're starting to mature and grow. We're just playing better in all three phases.”
Who: Pascagoula vs. Gautier
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Radio: 103.1 FM