Mississippi's playoff picture is beginning to take shape with a host of schools having clinched playoff berths on Tuesday.
Among them, both Ocean Springs teams defeated George County 3-0 to clinch their respective Region 7-6A titles.
Other division winners include: Biloxi boys (8-6A), Gulfport girls (8-6A), Gautier boys (8-5A), Stone boys (7-5A), St. Stanislaus (8-4A), Pass Christian girls (8-4A), St. Patrick's boys (8-1A/2A/3A) and Resurrection's girls (8-1A/2A/3A).
Of the titles still up for grabs, Stone's girls have to win Friday to hold off Hattiesburg in 7-5A, while West Harrison's girls are in the driver's seat for first in 8-5A with a decisive match against Long Beach on Friday.
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East Central's boys have a chance to lock up 7-4A on Friday with a strong showing against Greene County. On the girls' side, 7-4A is still up for grabs between Poplarville and Greene County.
St. Patrick's boys will look to make another run to the Class 1A/2A/3A title game after claiming the Region 8 championship. Resurrection earned the girls' region title.
Still in the hunt
Some of the second-place finishers are a bit murkier. Although Gulfport's boys (8-6A), Biloxi's girls (8-6A), both of George County's teams (7-6A), Pearl River Central's boys (7-5A), both of Bay High's teams (8-4A) and Resurrection's boys (8-1A/2A/3A) have clinched second place, a handful of other teams are still playing for their playoff lives. Pascagoula, West Harrison and Long Beach are all still battling for second in 8-5A. Our Lady Academy (8-1A/2A/3A) still has work to do as well, facing St. Patrick on Friday.
5-0 in sight
Should Stone's girls complete the season sweep of Hattiesburg on Friday, not only will the Lady Tomcats (9-3, 5-0) be Region 7-5A champs, they could also make school history.
"This is the first time in our history that we've had zero losses in district to this point. I want them to be the first at Stone County to be undefeated," coach Cynthia Moore said. "I'm just telling them to go out, have fun, play hard and do what they do best."
Looking to play hard
The Region 7-4A title will come down to Friday's rematch between ECHS (8-10-1, 4-1) and Greene County (7-10-1, 4-1). The Hornets won their early meeting 4-0 and are in control of their destiny, but coach Leo Staughn isn't harping on the goal differential cushion to his players.
"Hopefully we'll have the good mentality of going into this one," he said. "If we win, we host. I haven't told them otherwise. I want them to play to win, not to play to not lose by five. I think they're really eager to go out and win the game."
What a relief
One of the more competitive regions on the Coast in 2016 was 8-5A. While Gautier earned the title on Tuesday, West Harrison, Long Beach and Pascagoula are all still duking it out for second place.
With games Wednesday against West Harrison and Friday against Pascagoula, the early clincher should pay dividends for the Gators.
"Clinching the region is a relief. Knowing we have a playoff spot (is good), but we still have work to do with West Harrison and Pascagoula," GHS coach Joe Gatchet said Wednesday morning. "Fortunately, we're in the position where we don't have the pressure to win, but it gives us the opportunity to work on some things in our game.
"It was a pretty dog eat dog region."
Although the Greyhounds and Rockachaws have already cinched up their regions, the two will clash Friday at 7:30 p.m. for a final tune-up before next week's playoffs.
"I'd say on most years, and this year is no different, St. Stanislaus could compete with most of the big boys in 6A," OSHS boys coach Jeff French said.
SSC coach Ryan Joiner, a Greyhound alum, has made it a tradition to play his former school in each of his three seasons. OSHS won last year 2-1 last year and 1-0 the year before.
"They'd be the toughest team we'd see in the playoffs, being the 6A powerhouse they are," Joiner said. "It'll get us prepared and I hope it's the same for them."