Don’t expect Friday’s 7 p.m. game between No. 2 Gulfport and No. 4 Picayune at Lee-Triplett Stadium to resemble last year’s showdown between the Class 6A and 5A powers. At all.
Admirals coach Eddie Pierce sees a completely different Maroon Tide squad than the one Gulfport defeated 35-14 a year ago.
“Oh Lord, they’re totally different,” Pierce said Wednesday, citing Picayune’s high number of injuries in 2015.
The Maroon Tide are 2-0 with a 35-7 win against D’Iberville and a 56-21 victory against St. Martin. Pierce has seen glimpses of contending Picayune teams from years past while watching film.
“They’re very, very physical,” he said. “They just line up and run it down your throat. They have two really good tailbacks, a good fullback and a very aggressive defense.
“It’s just a hard-nosed system. It’s the way I think football should be played.”
Pierce credits Picayune’s youth system for making the Tide an annual contender.
“They start running that system when they’re peewees and run it until they’re seniors in high school,” he said. “They’ve been doing it for years and years and years.”
In just two games, Picayune has already amassed 768 rushing yards on 94 carries — an average of 8.18 yards per touch. Not exactly three yards and a cloud of dust.
Picayune has done a good job of sprinkling passes into their play calling. The Tide have completed 7 of 13 passes with three going for touchdowns.
“That’s what has me worried to death,” Pierce said. “They run it, run it, run it, lull you to sleep and then they hit you with the pass.”
The Admirals (2-1) will need to win in the trenches if they’re going to be successful Friday. Improving the play of both the offensive and defensive lines has been a point of emphasis for GHS early this season. At times the group’s production has been underwhelming.
“We have to win up front at the line of scrimmage,” Pierce said. “In the Petal game, we won the line of scrimmage. Last week we didn’t do that on either side of the ball. That’s where football begins.”
While Picayune has played much improved to start 2016, Tide coach Dodd Lee says he expects more of the same from GHS.
“They’re just like they were last year to me,” Lee said. “They’re dangerous offensively. Defensively they have nine starters back on a team that won the division. When their quarterback is hot, look out.”
Through three games, the Admirals have outscored their opponents 70-47.
Quarterback Cleveland Ford has completed just 42.6 percent of his passes — drops have been a part of the low percentage — for 422 yards and four touchdowns. He has rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown. Larozzo Shugart leads GHS with 141 yards on 24 carries. Both Shugart and T.Q. Newsome have two rushing touchdowns.
Early on, Ford has two main targets: Junior Jalen Knight and senior Sean Daniels. Knight leads the team with 10 receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown. Daniels has eight receptions for 140 yards and a score. Trey Scott has caught three passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
Who: Gulfport at Picayune
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Lee-Triplett Stadium
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