The run heavy offenses of East Central, Picayune and Poplarville can all take a load off after being eliminated from 4A and 5A playoffs last Friday.
Record: 7-5 overall, 3-2 Region 8-4A
Quick hits: ECHS had a successful return to Class 4A, making it to the second round of the playoffs. ECHS won a thrilling 32-30 playoff opener against Northeast Jones on Nov. 6 and, even in Friday's 26-20 loss to Lawrence County, it took two overtimes to eliminate the Hornets.
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Statistical leaders: RB A.J. Davis was the bell cow, the work horse, the go-to Hornet this season. Every team knew they had to stop No. 21, and yet none of them could. Davis ended up setting a school record by rushing for 2,893 yards and 25 touchdowns on a whopping 437 carries. His 156 points currently lead the Coast, although Pearl River Central's Christian Roberts isn't far behind with 148.
Looking ahead: The Hornets return dual-threat QB Glenn Evans but will need to find probably two or three players who can take on Davis' work load. Defensively, ECHS should be OK, returning three of their top four tacklers.
Record: 5-7 overall, 4-3 Region 4-5A
Quick hits: This season was difficult for Dodd Lee's bunch, marking the program's sub-eight-win season since 2005. Hit heavily by injuries during the preseason, the Tide never really found its footing. Perennial power Wayne County eliminated the Tide in a 58-28 first-round decision.
Statistical leaders: RB Joshua Littles burst onto the scene this year in Lee's run-heavy option offense and finished with 1,785 yards and 17 touchdowns, which was good enough for second on the Coast despite missing several games. QB Skylar Bowman managed the offense well, throwing for 645 yards with seven TDs while rushing for 55 yards and six scores. RBs David Baker, Trey Wimbrow and Blake Merrifield each rushed for more than 300 yards and combined for 14 touchdowns.
Looking ahead: Perhaps the lone benefit to suffering so many injuries is underclassmen who would have otherwise been role players were forced into starting duties and received valuable game experience. It also helps Littles, Bowman, Baker and Merrifield will all return.
Record: 7-5, 3-2 Region 7-4A
Quick hits: The Hornets rebounded from an 0-2 start out of the gate against dangerous foes St. Martin and Pearl River Central. Poplarville posted a 3-2 record in its first year in Region 7-4A and picked up a close 21-20 win over nine-win McComb to start the playoffs before losing to 2014 4A runner-up St. Stanislaus, 33-21, last Friday.
Statistical leaders: Outside of PRC's trio of running backs, Poplarville boasted the Coast's most productive rushing duo in Austin Bolton and Jesse Pernell. The underclassmen combined for more than 2,500 yards and 30 touchdowns. Defensively, Tyler Fricke was all over the field, leading Poplarville with five tackles and 110 total tackles.
Looking ahead: The Hornets will certainly be a team to watch in 2016 as they return freshman quarterback Antonio Barnes as well as Bolton and Pernell. Can the trio improve on 2015's productions and make a deeper post-season run?