There was a time back in the late 1960s and early 70s when St. Martin controlled the rivalry with neighbor D'Iberville. From 1969 through 1975, the Yellow Jackets posted a 6-1 record, out-scoring D'Iberville 133-71. Since then, however, it's been virtually all Warriors; St. Martin has won just three times since 1976 and D'Iberville owns an active 11-game winning streak against the Yellow Jackets.
Will that streak come to an end Friday night at Joe Barlow Stadium with a playoff berth on the line?
"It's kind of like a playoff game already where if you win you move on, if you lose you're more than likely done," St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead said. "That's the way we're approaching it."
The Yellow Jackets (9-2 overall, 4-2 Region 4-6A) enter the game coming off of a 42-20 win at George County and are currently tied with Harrison Central for third in the region.
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The Warriors (5-6, 3-3) have been one of the more frustrating teams on the Coast, alternating wins and losses most of the season. D'Iberville lost to HCHS 21-17 last week and enter the regular season finale in fifth place, one spot out of the playoffs.
"It's kind of do or die for us," long-time coach Buddy Singleton said. "We've been hot and cold all year."
Beyond saying "win and you're in," the various situations get a bit murky.
Gulfport (8-2, 6-0) already clinched the No. 1 seed, with Ocean Springs (8-2, 5-1), Harrison Central (5-6, 4-2), St. Martin and D'Iberville all battling for the other three playoff seeds. D'Iberville must win to get in; depending on Harrison Central-Ocean Springs, the Warriors could be third or fourth.
There's also a scenario where St. Martin could lose and still get in because of a three-way points differential tiebreaker with D'Iberville and Harrison Central, leaving the Red Rebels out in the cold. But the easiest way to approach Friday is win and you survive to play another day.
Downplaying the rivalry
Outside of the playoff implications, Both Singleton and Whitehead downplayed what the rivalry between St. Martin and D'Iberville has become. When the stadiums were about a mile apart, the rivals could see the glow from other's lights on Friday nights -- and both sides heard the roar of St. Martin's cannon after touchdowns.
"Back in the day, because they were so close to each other, it was a big deal. They used to have some pretty good wars," said Whitehead, who used to coach at D'Iberville. "It's still a big rivalry, but I don't think it's as big as it was back 20 or 30 years ago."
Added Singleton: "It used to be a rivalry a long time ago. It hasn't been. They've come up with pretty good teams the last couple of years but it's not as much of a rivalry as it used to be. Back when I was coaching in the 80s it was a big rivalry. ... I know their community is really excited because they've been winning. Whitehead has done a good job with them."