The games begin to carry a little more weight this week.
Region play has arrived for Class 1A, Class 5A and Class 6A football programs in South Mississippi and a couple of games will play big roles in deciding region titles.
Sun Herald No. 2 Picayune travels to Wayne County on Friday night in a match-up that’s long been considered one of the better Class 5A rivalries in South Mississippi, but this will mark the first time the two teams have met as region mates since 2010.
It’s never easy to travel to Waynesboro, but the Maroon Tide will hit the road Friday as favorites. The War Eagles (2-2) were an inconsistent squad through non-region play, beating West Jones and Moss Point by a combined score of 80-7 and losing to Oak Grove and Jefferson Davis County by a combined score of 90-37.
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Picayune and Hattiesburg are the favorites in Region 4-5A with Wayne County and No. 4 Stone High (2-1) also serving as contenders.
With Friday’s game at Wayne County and an Oct. 6 trip to Stone High on the slate, Picayune will have a tough region schedule.
On Friday night, I’m taking the Maroon Tide by the score of 35-24.
Here’s how I forecast the rest of Friday night’s games:
St. Martin 21, Gulfport 17: This should be the most meaningful game in Region 4-6A Friday night. If the Yellow Jackets win on the road at Gulfport, they’ll be squarely in the hunt for the region title. Gulfport (1-3) hasn’t lost a game to St. Martin (3-1) since 2003.
D’Iberville 28, Biloxi 20: The Warriors (1-3) begin region competition as the popular pick to take 4-6A and this game should tell us how much of an advantage they have on the rest of the region. Biloxi’s passing game showed some life on the road at Northshore in a 34-21 loss last week behind quarterback Kamron Suddeth, but the Indians (0-4) still have yet to put a complete game together.
Pascagoula 24, Harrison Central 17: This will be Pascagoula’s first region contest in Class 6A since 2010. The Panthers were a regular contender in region play in 4-5A and you can’t count them out in a wide open 4-6A. This will be one of the better running back match-ups of the season with Pascagoula senior Dalvin Abney and Harrison Central senior Keon Moore.
Ocean Springs 27, Hancock 21: Ocean Springs (2-2) has shown gradual improvement with each week as sophomore quarterback Blake Noblin settles in. Hancock has to hope last week’s 51-23 loss at Lakeshore was just a bump in the road.
Sacred Heart 21, Resurrection 20: The RCS football team (1-4) got its first win last week after enduring a difficult non-region slate. This game opens Region 4-1A and Sacred Heart (3-2) appears to be one of the more improved 1A squads in South Mississippi.
Long Beach 35, Pearl River Central 17: Long Beach is sitting at 3-1 and will have to show improvement if it is to take one of four playoff bids out of 4-5A. The Bearcats will have to beat PRC, Gautier, and West Harrison and try to pick off a game against one of four teams — Stone, Picayune, Hattiesburg and Wayne County.
Stone High 35, West Harrison 14: It’s asking a lot of West Harrison (1-3) to go to Perkinston on Friday night and come home with a victory. You can expect John Feaster’s Stone High squad (2-1) to be prepared every week.
Hattiesburg 38, Gautier 17: Hattiesburg (4-0) had one of the most impressive runs through non-region play in the state by taking down Petal, Laurel, Moss Point and Oak Grove. The Gators (1-3) hit the road as heavy underdogs.
Oak Grove 31, George County 14: George County (1-4) finally found life on offense last week with sophomore Jonovan Jackson taking over at quarterback in a 19-14 win at Harrison Central. Oak Grove (3-1) was tossing aside the competition until it fell 42-28 to Hattiesburg a week ago.
Greene County 21, Moss Point 7: Greene County (5-0) continues to impress each week behind a sturdy defense and an offense that is showing gradual improvement. Moss Point (1-4) will have to create a couple of turnovers to have a chance at home.
Sumrall 28, Pass Christian 24: Sumrall rolls in at 4-1 while Pass Christian sits at 1-3. The Pirates hit the road Friday looking to build on a Sept. 8 win over West Harrison.
St. Stanislaus 24, Madison-Ridgeland Academy 21: This game is possibly the biggest toss up on Friday night. MRA (4-1) is ranked No. 4 in MAIS by the Associated Press while St. Stanislaus appears set to make some noise in Region 8-4A.
St. Patrick 17, Bogue Chitto 14: St. Patrick’s defense should keep it in just about every game the rest of the way.
Christian Collegiate 42, Rebul Academy 10: CCA (2-3) will be a heavy favorite on its home field against winless Rebul Academy.