Gulfport, St. Stanislaus earn respect for Coast football

For the last decade or so, talk throughout the state has been about how the Coast's high school football teams aren't big enough, fast enough or tough enough to compete on a state-wide level.

On Friday night, a handful of Coast victories made a big step toward disproving those labels as the area looks to produce its first state champion since Picayune in 2013.

Gulfport (2-0) clamped down on nationally-ranked Petal 15-12, Harrison Central raced past a potent McComb squad 53-40 and St. Stanislaus showed some guts with a 49-26 victory over St. Paul's, a perennial Class 5A power in Alabama.

Gulfport, which is ranked No. 2 by the Sun Herald, and No. 1 St. Stanislaus (2-0) earned a pair of the biggest regular season victories the Coast has seen in quite some time.

George County upset Petal 29-26 last year in Lucedale, but that was well before the Panthers found their stride on the way to the 6A South State title.

When the Panthers walked into Milner Stadium Friday night, they were ranked in the top 25 nationally by USA Today. Petal beat a talented Hattiesburg team 56-42 in the season opener and many saw coach Marcus Boyles' team as one of the top contenders for a Class 6A state title.

You can now put Gulfport in that discussion along with Brandon, Petal and several other teams that will emerge as the season wears on.

In the mix

Both George County and St. Martin, a pair of teams loaded with offensive talent, could eventually jump into the 6A South State discussion, but they were far from perfect in their week two victories. George County committed 6 TURNOVERS in the first half of a 51-36 win over rival Greene County. St. Martin let Madison-Ridgeland Academy hang around a while before pulling away for a 51-28 victory in Madison.

In Class 4A, St. Stanislaus proved itself as the favorite for a state championship with the win over St. Paul's of Mobile, which is the defending 5A state champion in Alabama.

St. Paul's has produced football royalty in the state of Alabama, including a pair of quarterbacks who led the Crimson Tide to national titles – A.J. McCarron and Jake Coker. Former Alabama star linebacker Mark Barron also played for St. Paul's.

On Friday, it was St. Stanislaus who featured a quarterback who may soon be royalty in the state of Louisiana. Myles Brennan, who is committed to LSU, completed 27 of 40 passes for 248 yards for five touchdowns and ran for two more scores.

The senior quarterback will have games with bigger numbers this season, but he may not face a better team the rest of the way. After falling short against Noxubee County in the 4A state title game the last two years, the Rockachaws appear the team to beat in 2016.

Big game looming

Moss Point (2-0) is probably SSC's toughest 4A opponent left on the schedule and the Rockachaws will have to travel to take on the Tigers on Oct. 21. That contest is quickly setting up to be one of the games of the season.

While Gulfport and SSC have emerged as potential state title contenders in 6A and 4A, it's unclear whether a team will be capable of making a run in 5A.

Pascagoula was expected to be the best 5A team on the Coast, but the Panthers are a surprising 0-2 after losing 20-7 to Ocean Springs Friday night. Picayune rolled 35-7 in its season opener against D'Iberville, but we'll find out much more about the Maroon Tide when they host St. Martin and Gulfport over the next two weeks.

Resurrection (1-1) fell 35-28 at Class 4A Pass Christian Friday night, but the Eagles are still a contender in 1A.

Week two had some interesting match-ups, but week three may be even better with St. Martin at Picayune, Moss Point at Harrison Central and George County at Petal.

It's only been two weeks, but several Coast squads have proven themselves worthy of state-wide attention.

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